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Zille boycotts ‘public funded’ New Age breakfast

While the ruling party went on the offensive yesterday against FNB for an advertising campaign that used young people articulating political views – not to the liking of the ANC – official opposition leader Helen Zille decided to boycott a New Age breakfast because it was sponsored by state-owned corporations.

On the same day, the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) took heed of criticism from a Business Report journalist who complained that some ministers did not worry about wasting journalists’ time by arriving late – or not pitching up at all – for press conferences. The particular minister was Minerals Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, who called a press conference last week, never pitched up and then moved it to another venue – where she was then late.

The GCIS claimed that the government took pride in its communications and “ministers do not deliberately seek to disrespect journalists”.

The GCIS said: “We are mindful of the pressures that reporters are under as they work towards meeting their deadlines.”

It continued: “We also strive at all times to display a high level of professionalism when we interact with members of the media. It is therefore not in our interest to deliberately disrespect the work we do.”

Zille told Sapa that she had pulled out of the Gupta family-owned New Age newspaper breakfast because it was funded by public money. The Guptas are key supporters of the ANC and of President Jacob Zuma in particular.

City Press reported on Sunday that Transnet paid R17.5 million for 18 SABC-televised New Age breakfast sessions and Eskom R7.2m for six sessions between November 2011 and the end of last year. The session at the end of the ANC’s Mangaung conference – hosting the top six ANC leaders including Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma – was sponsored by Transnet.

The ANC may be able to brazenly red-hand state coffers indirectly through the parastatals, but mildly critical advertising by a bank seems to be a heinous crime.

SACP

When the ruling party’s alliance partner says there is something fishy going on with government business, then you know there are rats to smell.

SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka sent out a statement yesterday saying it was “angered” by media reports regarding the R65 million cost of renovations to houses of ministers and deputy ministers.

The party gave a rather odd example of “practices” that it was aware of that pushed up the cost of government. “The SACP has over sometime [sic] been aware of practices where to hire a glass for a function that takes two to three hours have been costing government R200 per glass for those hours. This is an unwelcomed [sic] practice. It is simply corruption that we must all unite against in society.”

Maleka went on: “The reported costs, if true, are extremely exorbitant and represent sophistication between those in Public Works responsible and the private individuals who have won the tenders to siphon resources from the public purse.”

The SACP rejected attempts to “deposit the blame on the ministers and to adopt a public posture as if renovations to the houses are not a necessity”, the statement read. “We call on all to desist from political grandstanding around this issue and deal with the matter at hand which is the collusion between those who bid for tenders and the relevant officials to inflate prices in order to serve the bribe lust, be it of the officials or of the politicians concerned.”

The party called on Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, a senior SACP member, “to act swiftly to bring those involved to book”.

The party further called for an end to outsourcing of certain services, such as catering and maintenance of buildings. It also called for the Public Works Department to bring back engineers, architects and project managers who had left the state’s service because of outsourcing.

Freezing weather and heavy snow in the UK and continental Europe may have added to confusion caused by contradictory statements from SAA and new trade union the National Transport Movement (NTM).

The union has called a strike in response to the airline’s refusal to recognise it. According to SAA, the strike has not disrupted any flights. This was backed up by Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

But NTM president Ephraim Mpahlele insists that the strike is succeeding.

Although Acsa flight information over the weekend showed no disruptions to domestic and regional flights, there certainly were delays in flights from Europe, and this was expected to continue.

But this was due to the weather, which caused a British Airways flight from London to Johannesburg to be cancelled on Friday while one by Virgin Atlantic was extremely late. By yesterday morning almost all flights from the UK and western Europe to both Johannesburg and Cape Town were hours late in arriving and the airports were warned that flights due to take off last night would be affected.

At this stage it is hard to say whether Vuyisile Kona, SAA’s acting chief executive, was right in agreeing to recognise the union, or non-executive director Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, who was apparently acting for the interim chairwoman at the time, was right to get his decision overturned.

Several industrial relations experts have made statements supporting Kona, an experienced former SAA executive. Remember, the trouble at Marikana could have been avoided if management was prepared to listen to the new union there.

If the NTM is not truly representative of SAA employees it would be outvoted by the more established unions in any wage discussions. The situation in which Kona was not listened to certainly sheds light on why SAA’s former chief executive and the majority of the former board resigned.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressley and Audrey D’Angelo.

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