Monday, June 6, 2011

Revamp at Madiba museum

The world-renowned Nelson Mandela Museum, in Mthatha, will close for more than two years from August for a major makeover.

Though the museum will be off limits for 30 months to the legions of Madiba fans, they will still be able to experience “Madiba magic” at the Mandela Museum in nearby Qunu, Mandela’s home town.

Promising a bigger and better experience after the renovation, museum chief financial officer Khwezi Mpumlwana said many exhibits now on display at the flagship Bhunga Building would be moved to Qunu.

Other material from the Mthatha Museum would go on a country-wide roadshow, taking it to people who cannot afford the pilgrimage to the Eastern Cape.

“It will be like a brand new museum when we move back after the renovations,” Mpumlwana said.

“The work is part of a renewal process that will provide visitors with a deeper, richer story of Madiba. The meaningfulness of his life will be brought out even more.”

As well as improving display areas in the historic Bhunga Building, which once housed the Transkei bantustan’s administration, renovations will include building a new wing so that more Madiba treasures now in storage can be seen by the hundreds of people who flock there every week.

Mpumlwana said the building was not designed to be a museum.

“It was a parliament and offices before we opened up. We plan to give it a major facelift and hope to provide more research and context behind the gifts and exhibits.

“There will be even more Madiba magic when we are finished.”

Many gifts to Mandela from all over the world are in storage because of the lack of exhibition space. Researchers are studying the origins of each piece to better explain their significance.

“It is all very exciting. When we are finished, even more gifts will be on display,” Mpumlwana said.

The facelift would also make the museum more child-friendly.

When the work is completed, items never displayed before from all over the world would join exhibits such as Madiba’s Robben Island sunglasses, prison latrine bucket and the iconic No 6 Springbok rugby jersey he wore when South Africa won the 1995 rugby World Cup.

Over R300m Tenders - John Block

John Block, the ANC Northern Cape Chairman who is currently out on bail regarding an alleged R112 million tender fraud, has been implicated in a new Hawks investigation involving tenders worth R300 million.

In accordance with a Sunday Times report the Northern Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism is being investigated for dodgy security contracts in respect of government buildings awarded to a company linked to Northern Cape finance.

The report says that provincial police spokeswoman Cherelle Ehlers confirmed this week that the Hawks were investigating a case of “fraud and corruption” against Global Crown Security Services, based in Kimberley but no arrests have been made as yet.

At the time, Block also headed the party’s deployment committee, which decides who holds influential provincial government positions, including those with authority to award tenders.

According to the Sunday Times Block was allegedly linked to the security company through a web of friends and associates, who all apparently received generous payments, described as “admin fees”, “settlements” or “consultancy”.

Ehlers said the investigations were at a very sensitive stage and could therefore not divulge any further details.

Dali Mjila, Block’s lawyer, was quoted as saying it was undesirable “for our client to respond to any averments if it is correct that this matter is under investigation”.

In respect of the earlier R112m tender fraud charge Block is out on R100 000 bail.

The matter is due in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on June 10 where the charges are fraud, corruption and money laundering.

The ANC leader was arrested with eight others, including Uruguayan businessman and Intaka Holdings owner, Gaston Savoi. The arrest was regarding a R112 million tender fraud related to the purchase of water purification equipment from Intaka at inflated prices in 2005 and 2006.

Block, Savoi and their co-accused – Fernando Praderi, Ansano Romani, Ronald Geddes, Sanjay Mitah, Deon Madyo, Daniel Gaborone and Nelmarie Oosthuizen – appeared in the Magistrate’s Court in a matter which is being personally prosecuted by National Director of Public Prosecutions Adv Menzi Simelane.

In November 2010 Miningmx alleged that Block is a director of a company that for years has mined salt in the Kalahari with a fraudulent mining licence. 

Block in hot water again


The Supreme Court of Appeal dealt beleaguered Northern Cape ANC chairperson and MEC for economic affairs John Block another blow this week when it ruled against his salt mining company, which has for years been mining with a forged permit. 

John Block

Judge Azhar Cachalia also lambasted the South African Police Service (SAPS) for not investigating the forged mining licence and the department of mineral resources for not holding anyone accountable for ineptitude and corruption.

The SAPS has now confirmed that an investigation into the forged mining licence was nearly complete.

SA Salt, one of numerous companies that Block is a director of, had petitioned the court for leave to appeal against a high court order to stop all its mining activities at Vrysoutpan near Upington.

The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and upheld the high court’s cost order – to be shared by the mineral resources department and SA Salt.

The saga began in July 2005 when rival company Saamwerk applied for a mining licence, which the regional manager of the mineral resources department accepted since “no other person was on record as holding a right or permit to mine salt on the property”, according to the judgment.

But when Saamwerk submitted its labour and social plan in December 2006, SA Salt suddenly claimed the right to mine the property.

SA Salt had been mining and had a permit that expired in April 2005, just before Saamwerk applied for its own.

From the appeal court judgment, it appeared the mineral resources department initially insisted SA Salt’s permit had expired and the public works department demanded it vacate the property in favour of Saamwerk.

A few months later the mineral resources department changed its position. It now said it “had no record of having issued” the permit SA Salt claimed to have, contradicting its earlier position that the permit had expired.

The department’s regional manager even raised questions over the validity of the permit, which appeared to be forged.

In November 2006 Block and then ANC mayor and regional chairperson for Upington, Gift van Staden, became SA Salt directors.

Cachalia described how in 2007 the minerals department had arranged a high-level meeting – including both the regional manager and an official from its head office in Pretoria.

Block, attending for SA Salt, produced the original permit with which they claimed to be mining.

Now the mineral resources department declared the permit valid.

Saamwerk turned to the Northern Cape High Court.

In its affidavit the minerals department said it had approved Saamwerk’s application “through bona fide error” because SA Salt’s “permit” had not been captured on the computer system.

At the 2009 high court hearing Saamwerk’s handwriting expert proved SA Salt’s permit false and judge Hennie Lacock declared it invalid and Saamwerk to be the holder of the right.

Cachalia said: “At the very least one would have expected Block, who on SA Salt’s behalf had produced the permit ... to have explained where he had got it.”

SA Salt’s legal team would not comment this week, saying it was studying the judgment and obtaining legal advice.

Saamwerk lodged a claim of forgery with the Saps two years ago.
Cachalia saved the most scathing criticism for the mineral resources department, saying it was “disturbing .?.?. that there is more than a hint of ineptitude – if not venality – among one or more of the officials of the (department) who dealt with this matter. Yet no-one has been held accountable.”

Department spokesperson Bheki Khumalo said: “Minister (Susan) Shabangu has always called on those who have or claim to have information regarding alleged cases of corruption or wrongdoing on the part of the officials of the department to submit it either to herself or to the department or even to the law enforcement agencies so that the law can take its course.”

Ostriches No More

Jun 5, 2011

The info bill must be rejected if citizens are not to become like the whites who say they didn't know about apartheid evils, writes Joe Latakgomo 

The Big Read: Millions of white South Africans today claim they did not know what their government was doing in their name under apartheid. They claim they did not know what was happening and were denied information that would have enabled them to make rational and proper judgments about issues of the nation. 

Much of the white media at the time, including the broadcast media, which was the sole preserve of the ruling party, was complicit in this. The people, who are the ultimate source of power in a democracy, were denied information. Journalism in these circles had given up its role to interpret and disseminate information to the people, the better for them to be able to make judgments on men and issues. 

They saw the state of the nation in the hues that the government painted for them. 

Any newspaper that published news contrary to what the white electorate had been told was brushed with the paint of "dangerous terrorists" and accused of betrayal and lack of patriotism. Their journalists were called "communists", a term that led to their being ostracised, spat on, tarred and feathered, and even murdered. 

The government, and the white electorate, demanded that newspapers publish only what they wanted to hear, to the extent that truth itself became suspicious. 

I raise these issues in the light of the ruling ANC's determination to ram through its controversial Protection of Information Bill. 

In exactly the same way as the old National Party rammed through similar laws - including laws that turned the very people in government today into criminals and terrorists back then - our government is working hard to proscribe the public's right to information. 

The Right2Know Campaign has said this law would have the effect of "keeping valuable information away from people on the ground, particularly poor communities and their right to information on issues of service delivery and corruption". 

The government says, just like the white apartheid government said then, that it represents the vast majority of the people of this land. It will say that it was given an overwhelming mandate to rule in the most recent elections. Democracy, it will argue, has spoken. 

But it is precisely because we live in a democracy that the need for information is so acute. We need information to be able to make decisions. 

When the people delegate authority, they do not give politicians and other public servants, in other words servants who represent them, the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. 

If the people were intelligent enough to decide whom to vote for, as the ruling party itself claims, then surely they are intelligent enough to be able to discern what is wrong or right in reports. 

Freedom of the press was never meant to make it easier or more profitable for newspapers and their owners, but to enable them to give the public accurate information. 

Newspapers are not always wrong, but neither are they always right. Where they have erred, as far as the Avusa Media group is concerned, it is my responsibility to ensure remedies are instituted. 

Our government must learn from the experience of other democracies. In the US, the issue of whether to publish information or not has never been satisfactorily resolved. It cannot be because there are no absolutes in this issue. There is no black and white, but largely shades of grey. 

The US government desperately wanted information withheld during the build-up to the Bay of Biscayne debacle. Newspapers had been given information that the CIA was training Cuban dissidents to launch an invasion of their country from the Bay of Pigs. 

Editors wrestled with the decision of whether to publish or not to publish. They opted not to. The raid was a total disaster. 

Years later, President John Kennedy is reported to have remarked that he regretted that the media had not printed all the information they had on the plan as "it would have saved us from a colossal mistake". 

In our country, does the government want a meek media that publishes only government press handouts and photographs of politicians kissing babies and giving away house keys in staged media events? 

Herbert Drucker, in his book Communication is Power, summed it up superbly. Half a century in journalism, he says, "has convinced me that most people's idea of objective news is news that is stained in the brilliant hues of their own prejudices". 

If the government conspires to withhold the truth from the people, the people will surely judge it harshly when they find out that their trust has been betrayed. Everything that the government does, it does in the name of the public. 

These are the people whose media interests I represent.
Public servants are the stewards of the people. Our democracy does not need a public that will, down the line, like many white South Africans are doing today, claim that it did not know what its government was doing in its name.