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Melodrama as SA corruption probes drop ‘silent bombs’

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By CHRIS ERASMUS
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Watching South Africa’s state capture and related probes into corruption in high places is like watching a television soap opera with high-drama moments — except everything is taking place in what seems like slow motion with no background music and no audible sharp intakes of breathe to give the viewer the clue that something important is unfolding.

In the main event, the state capture inquiry being conducted by Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo, the surreal sense of near-silent significance has been amplified as one politically meaningful bombshell after another has been detonated by explosive testimony of the involvement in corruption of high-ranking members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, some of them still in their jobs.

Starkly contrasting the shocking evidence of wide scale corruption, given recently by one employee or former employee after another of controversial facilities company Bosasa, has been the quiet power of Justice Zondo who has relentlessly stalked down every bit of testimony such that when, perhaps a year or more from now, he finally is able to draw up his report, there will be no loopholes and no doubt.

Zondo himself commands respect, carrying with him a bearing and gravitas far beyond the norm even for senior justices.

His amiable and careful manner belies on obviously astute legal mind, and his powerful personal impact on the process has been clear in those moments when, for example, he has looked sternly at the media observing the hearing and berated them for publishing elements of witness statements not yet placed into evidence.

Likewise was his attitude to former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi whose testimony took eight days to deliver but included a secretly recorded extract of a conversation in which Agrizzi repeatedly used the “k-word” and which, said Zondo in no uncertain terms, was “racist”, “extremely offensive” and “utterly unacceptable”.

In the latter instance, Agrizzi attempted to explain himself, saying he had been under duress at the hands of Bosasa boss Gavin Watson and his family, had had too much alcohol and was frustrated.

But under Zondo’s fierce stare, Agrizzi’s efforts to distance himself from his slurred racial insults aimed at two other Bosasa executives, both black, broke down and he admitted that, “yes, I am a racist”.

Those wishing the entire process had never happened — being, in short, former President Jacob Zuma, who has now been directly implicated by each Bosasa witness so far, along with several other very senior ANC figures — are daily enduring another round of highly damaging revelations which, taken together, paints a rather bleak outlook for their futures.

So far several of Zuma’s ministers, some of them still holding posts in the executive, have been named directly or implicated in corruption, along with “close Zuma associates” such as former SA Airways chief executive Dudu Myeni, chair of his personal foundation.

Myeni tried to dismiss Agrizzi’s testimony as that of an “angry racist” but her effort to diminish the impact and import of what the Bosasa operational executive laid before the commission, since supported by three other Bosasa employees including the group’s former chief financial officer, are not merely unconvincing, they sound desperate.

Indeed, desperation is running high in the pro-Zuma camp which is engaged in a “fight-back” against President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promised clean-out campaign to rid SA’s public offices and his ruling party of corrupt elements.

Another close Zuma ally, former North West province premier Supra Mahumapelo, has this week taken the ANC to court over its disbanding of his regional government structures and his ouster from the premiership of that province which forms SA’s northern border with Botswana.

Talks are under way to make that embarrassment to the ruling party “go away”, but it seems that any “settlement” will be short-lived, lasting likely to no longer than the elections due to be called shortly by Ramaphosa, probably for early May.

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As has been pointed out by almost all commentators and analysts assessing the situation here, these commissions — there two others also underway at the same time — are serving Ramaphosa well in that they are, slow motion revelation, damaging his pro-Zuma opponents in the party.

But, as has also been pointed out, Zuma’s recalcitrance and the ANC’s slowness to act has meant that, in a constant drip-drip process, the ANC’s reputation is also being tarnished in the run-up to an election, with each detailed account of which minister, former minister or senior public servant was corrupted, and which “favours” were granted, cars provided, houses built and cash payments made by their corruptors.

It is going to be simply impossible to ignore what is coming out, in the end.

While those who have allegedly been “on the take” will have their chance to cross-examine commission witnesses, and the commission itself is not a court of law in which they are on trial, yet it seems certain that trials will eventuate, even if maybe two years from now or later yet.

The damning weight of what is being provided — backed up by records including “black book” accounts of cash bribes received monthly from Bosasa by senior ANC and government figures, each with their own codename, plus video evidence of the cash payments being compiled in Bosasa’s offices — is such that the implicated parties are being irretrievably tainted.

This goes for Zuma, who according to testimony was receiving over US$22,000 monthly in cash via Myeni, along with several of those leading the “fight-back”.

These figures are all, as things now stand, still on the ANC’s candidate lists for the upcoming elections.

That will mean a certain loss of votes, even among hardcore ANC loyalists, because of the level of citizens’ disgust with their political leadership’s venal failings — while millions struggle to survive, eking out a living in a much-weakened economy, the “fat cats” have grown fatter yet in the Zuma years.

That inescapable fact will hurt the ANC at the polls, and having the names of those responsible on party lists will make the party’s pain deeper yet if they are still up for a parliamentary seat after the next vote.

It is true that the evidence so far shows that the systematic corruption of state officials by Bosasa’s Watson began in the early-mid 2000s, the era of Zuma’s processor President Thabo Mbeki.

But that helps the ANC, and those implicated along with Zuma, not at all.

The sorts of images that will be with voters on election day will likely include the startling picture painted by former Bosasa CFO Andries van Tonder of an expensive Louis Vuitton handbag, picked specially for Myeni, into which one of Zuma’s monthly cash “payments” was being stuffed prior to delivery to Zuma.

Political polls indicate that the ANC may still do fairly well in the 2019 elections, perhaps obtaining 55 percent or even a bit more — but most have been taken on limited populations of likely voters and prior to some of the most damning revelations of the last while.

Julius Malema’s populist Economic Freedom Fighters party appears to be on track to make gains, mostly at ANC expense, and could double its 25 MPs, while the current official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, will likely have cemented itself further into that position, despite some internal wrangling of late.

Whatever the final count, however, it is certain that Zuma and his ilk will be done for as a force after the vote – and the South African political landscape will have changed in the wake of Justice Zondo’s and the other corruption probes underway.

While things move at their seeming snail’s pace, and no cheering or jeering is tolerated, the process of lancing the political boil of corruption is neither quiet nor without major drama, all that noisy drama being played out beyond the closed doors behind which the ugly truth is slowly yet clearly emerging.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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