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News in and around South Africa. | 2 Western Cape schools to offer Sign Language as matric subject

South African Sign Language (SASL) will be offered as a matric subject, the Western Cape education department said on Monday.

The department embarked on a three-year South African Sign Language pilot project from 2011 to 2013 to establish SALS as a subject in schools for the deaf.

It is the first SASL curriculum worldwide to be implemented at a Grade 12 level.

“There are currently only nine schools in the country that will be sitting for the 2018 (NSC) SASL exams,” DA spokesperson on social development Lorraine Botha said. 

“Two schools in the Western Cape, De La Bat School for the Deaf learners in Worcester and Dominican Wittebome’s matriculants have the privilege of presenting SASL on home language level at the end of 2018.”

SASL will be offered as a subject at home language level from Grade 1 to matric.

Promoting inclusivity

“The DA in the Western Cape remains committed to eliminating all barriers to deaf learners and to ensure these individuals can fully exercise their right to be taught and assessed in their own language,” Botha said.

“Furthermore, this offers a platform for those with hearing impairments to also be recognised as a fundamental part of South African culture.”

The Western Cape Education Department has been promoting a culture of inclusivity in schools.

Earlier this month, spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said that Western Cape schools had been encouraged to protect members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

A handful of schools have started allowing transgender students to wear the uniforms that suit their gender identity. | ‘We’re not Zuma’s mouthpiece’, says new party, noting it met with 3 former presidents

The Mazibuye African Congress (MAC) claims it is not a mouthpiece for former president Jacob Zuma and hasn’t spoken to him since establishing itself as a political party in July. It is, however, still in touch with people close to him, the party said.

The newly formed political party’s president Reggie Ngcobo said after approaching former presidents, among them FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki, Zuma was the only former leader interested in hearing the organisation’s views.

Ngcobo said the party had not met with Zuma since a July rally during which supporters decided that the organisation could not remain a civic movement “addressing political ills outside of the political space”.

“We had three or more meetings with the former president to get his input as far as the ills that we identified in the country. [He] gave his own personal input but didn’t ask us to become a political party,” said Ngcobo.

He was speaking to a near-empty room at a media briefing called by the party in Ekurhuleni on Monday.

AfriForum partnership

The organisation, which only accepts people of African descent as members, is well-known for its pro-Zuma stance and is widely believed to have been formed with his blessings, a claim Ngcobo denies. 

The MAC, which also said it wants to contest the 2019 polls, announced that it was partnering with a few small civic organisations and that right-wing lobby group AfriForum would possibly be one of them.

The two parties are an odd pair as they differ on their approach to the land question in South Africa. AfriForum is opposed to the call for expropriation of land without compensation while the MAC supports the proposed policy.

“AfriForum, they regard themselves as Africans, because they are Afrikaners, the only thing that separates us from them is the economy and complexion of their skin,” said Ngcobo.

However, he reiterated calls made by the organisation when it was launched just over three months ago that land in South Africa must be given to “African natives”.

He said it was necessary for Afrikaner land owners to “admit the land they are occupying and using was a result of theft” and for them to “take it back to the native people of this land”.

He said he would like to see Afrikaners continuing to work the land, however.

“We cannot dispute the fact that Afrikaners are good agricultural people. We don’t want to see a situation like in Zimbabwe where the farmers were chased out and serious famine happened in the country,” he continued.

State capture revelations

Ngcobo also used the opportunity to hit out at Zuma’s detractors and to give his views on current affairs.

“We are witnessing the uncovering of top surface corruption committed by our respectable public leaders, we can’t trust anyone anymore,” he said.

Ngcobo said leaders were suddenly unable to prioritise the needs of South Africans, even welcoming the resignation of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene who stepped down last week.

“The resignation of Nhlanhla Nene leaves a lot to be desired. He was long portrayed as a financial saint who was victimised by president Zuma for alleged corrupt ends. We remain surprised by the allegations that led him to resign,” said Ngcobo.

Nene stepped down after admitting to having lied about meeting with the controversial Gupta family at the heart of state capture allegations.

The former minister admitted during testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture to having met with their family six times at their Saxonwold home.

Ngcobo also noted that the SACP had, through its leader Blade Nzimande, said it would approach the commission. He called on Transport Minister Nzimande and Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi to testify before the commission. | ‘Correcting the original sin of land dispossession’: Ramaphosa hands over land to KZN community

President Cyril Ramaphosa handed over more than 4000 hectares of land to the KwaMkhwanazi community in Empangeni, northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.

“This handover of 4 586 hectares of land comes at a time when the attention of our nation is focused on the effort to correct the original sin of land dispossession,” Ramaphosa said.

He also handed over the title deeds of both the land the Mkhwanazi residents have held since 2002 and the land that had been restored on Sunday.

“We firmly believe that people should have the deeds to the land they own,” he said. 

The KwaMkwanazi community was forcibly removed from their land in three phases following the enactment of the 1913 Land Act, according to The Presidency.

From 1915 to 1918 the first group of dispossessions took place to the KwaMkhwanazi people, their dispossession was a result of returning World War I white soldiers.

The second phase of dispossession took place in the 1940s, when the white farming community expanded their commercial interests in timber and cane.

‘Restitution, not retribution’

At the height of apartheid supremacy the government of the time between 1958 and 1960 violently removed landowners to cater for the expansion of the white community around Richards Bay and the Mthunzini coast.

Ramaphosa said the history of dispossession of the KwaMkhwanazi community straddled colonialism and the relentless discrimination, prejudice and violence that culminated in the 1948 victory of the National Party in an all-white election. 

“Seventy years after apartheid rule commenced, our land redistribution programme is an undertaking in restitution, not retribution,” said Ramaphosa. 

The injustice, indignity and impoverishment inflicted on the people of Mkhwanazi mirrored the hardship to which colonialism and apartheid subjected communities throughout a country endowed with great natural gifts that should have been able to provide a life of dignity and worth to all its people, he said. 

In response to the inhumane dispossession and injustice brought upon the people of this land, the ANC’s Freedom Charter made a clear call that the land must be shared among those who work it, he said.

“As government, we are intensifying implementation of our land reform and restitution programmes so that South Africans such as the KwaMkhwanazi residents can leverage land for the betterment of their lives and the growth of our economy.”

He announced that government would assist the community with post-settlement packages that would develop their ability to create sustainable income and jobs from the land transferred to them.

“These post settlement support packages are designed to ensure that beneficiary communities, such as Mkhwanazi, build on your existing presence and participation in the sector and shift from subsistence to commercial participants and owners of businesses across the value chains of the assets on their land,” he said.

Ramaphosa said it was government’s belief that communities should take great interest in their land restitution processes and be active participants in all enterprises and activities taking place on their land.

“This community can be exemplary to other recipients of land through its active participation in the administration of funds received through the Phalane Trust. The Mkhwanazi land recipients, through the Phalane Trust, currently own sugarcane enterprises and the Forestry Inn Hotel Pty Ltd that operate on behalf of the community and we encourage this type of entrepreneurship,” he said.

The president commended companies, such as SiyaQhubekha Forests (Pty) Ltd, that have lease agreements on the Mkhwanazi land and “who will provide bursaries for local students studying in areas relevant to the forestry sector”. | Maimane: Ramaphosa must come clean over claims he knew about VBS looting

The DA says its lawyers are considering laying charges against President Cyril Ramaphosa following reports that he had prior knowledge of widespread looting at VBS Mutual Bank but allegedly failed to act.

Mmusi Maimane said in a statement on Sunday that the charges would be in accordance with the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA).

City Press reported that Ramaphosa was apparently informed of widespread corruption and looting involving bank executives at a meeting in Johannesburg very early last year.

Sources close to a major VBS shareholder said the shareholder personally informed Ramaphosa, who was not president at the time, about what was going on, according to City Press.

Ramaphosa promised to do something about it, but he did not, according to the City Press’ source.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko reportedly told the publication that the Presidency had no knowledge of such a meeting.

Diko’s phone rang unanswered on Sunday and she did not reply to an SMS News24 sent to her.

Maimane said these were “incredibly serious allegations” that needed to be answered by Ramaphosa with “haste”.

READ: VBS looting: ‘Cyril knew, but did nothing’, claim sources

“I will therefore be submitting an urgent question to be asked during oral questions to President Ramaphosa in Parliament on Thursday to confirm the veracity of these allegations,” Maimane said in a statement.

“While President Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, has denied this meeting ever occurred, the President would be wise to use his final oral questions session for the year next week to play open cards with the people of South Africa,” said Maimane.

Advocate Terry Motau SC released his damning report, The Great Bank Heist, on Wednesday into how 50 individuals and companies, including many of the bank’s executives, received “gratuitous payments” amounting to R1.8bn from the bank.

It has also been alleged that former president Jacob Zuma’s VBS loan of R8.5m – used to pay back part of his Nkandla home upgrades – was used as political security.

ALSO READ: VBS, Jacob Zuma and the ‘sham’ Nkandla bond he couldn’t afford

“South Africa cannot afford another compromised president,” Maimane said.

He said the allegations were all symptomatic of the loss of power in the ANC and was demonstrable of the politics of patronage trumping the service of citizens.

“The absence of divisive action and the protection of certain individuals can only mean that unity in the ANC is more important than accountability to the ruling party. And it begs the question of what other scandals the president also had knowledge of. This system of corruption must be broken,” he said.

Maimane suggested that Ramaphosa’s “‘New Dawn’ glass box seems to have shattered”.

“He has already confirmed his willingness to appear before the State Capture Commission and now needs to start picking up the shards of this ANC-created mess and come clean with South Africa,” Maimane said. | JUST IN: Apartheid-era breakaway Conservative Party MP Tom Langley dies

A founder of the apartheid-era Conservative Party (CP) died on Friday, the same day as his political foe Pik Botha.

“I can confirm he died yesterday [Friday] afternoon,” said Corne Mulder, Chief Whip of the Freedom Front Front Plus, which has some of its roots in the CP.

It is understood that he died on his farm in Limpopo.

“He and Pik Botha had a political feud for many years and I know that he at some stage said he wanted to outlive Pik Botha. Ironically they died on the same day,” said Mulder.

Botha died on Friday at home at the age of 86 after a spell in hospital.

READ: Former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha dies

Langley formed part of a group of National Party Members of Parliament led by Andries Treurnicht.

They would not accept former head of state PW Botha’s apparent leanings towards “power sharing” with people not classified white, in an era of “swart gevaar” (black danger).

They construed this to be the first step towards a black government and erosion of the rights of minorities and Afrikaners. They were also deeply opposed to the anti-apartheid movement’s association with the SA Communist Party and saw the movement as a threat to country’s security.

They broke away to form the CP in 1982 and became the official opposition in Parliament, surpassing the liberal Progressive Federal Party, to the shock of many.

The party also called for a “no” vote in a referendum on whether there should be “power sharing” in the form of a tricameral parliament – where there would be separate houses of parliament for people classified as coloured and Indian, but not for black representatives. 

One of its leaders Clive Derby-Lewis was incarcerated for helping Polish national Janusz Walus kill SACP leader Chris Hani in 1993.

Mulder said Langley was the spokesperson for the CP and after the first democratic elections, the late former president Nelson Mandela posted Langley to Prague as ambassador for South Africa, in one of his characteristic politically inclusive moves.

Mulder said Mandela contacted the Freedom Front Plus and asked for names for the post and they suggested two. Mandela chose Langley for Prague and Carl Werth served as ambassador in Singapore.

Werth later joined the Democratic Party, predecessor to the DA, and then the ANC.

Mulder said Langley was a strong youth leader for the National Party when he entered politics and played an important role in the difficult days of the early 80s, when he was chairperson of the foreign affairs committee in Parliament.

He said it was while shadow minister of foreign affairs that he and Botha constantly disagreed.

Langley’s constituency was Waterkloof before he left politics and went farming.

“But I think he played an important role. He was basically always in the leadership of the official opposition in those days.”

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– FOLLOW News24 on Twitter | Seven children rescued from ex-Seven Angels’ cult follower

Seven Eastern Cape children were taken to a place of safety after neighbours reported that they were being kept out of school because of their father’s religious beliefs, the province’s Department of Social Development said.

Department spokesperson Gcobani Maswana said their father did not allow his children to go to school or have birth certificates.

“He believed they could not get an education from worldly society,” said Maswana.

The department thinks he may have been a part of the Seven Angels Ministry cult which was discovered after five police officers were shot dead in a robbery at Ngcobo police station in February.

While following the trail of the killers police came upon a collection of filthy rooms where women and children were kept in dire conditions and were not allowed to leave the property. Some members of the cult were arrested, and others were killed in a shootout with police.

Maswana said it is thought that the father of children moved from there to a village near Idutywa with his family.

However, neighbours became upset that none of he and his wife’s nine children between the ages of 7 to 14 were going to school.

They raised their concerns with authorities and it was established that not only were the children not going to school, but they did not even have birth certificates.

READ: Forensics team returns to controversial Ngcobo church 

In a lengthy process a court order was obtained to remove seven of the nine children to places of safety.

“They deserve to have an identity. They deserve to have an education,” said Maswana.

Maswana said that in addition to the incredible inter-agency corperation that led to the children being taken into care, the department was bowled over by how the residents were so worried about the children and let the authorities know.

And, after the children were removed, residents rallied around to collect blankets, clothes and any other items that they could donate to contribute to the department’s and NGOs’ efforts to make the childrens’ experience less traumatic.

The children are also receiving health checks and counselling.

In the meantime, processes are underway to investigate the circumstances of the remaining two children, and to establish more details regarding the parents’ actions. 

On February 21, attackers entered Ngcobo police station, between Mthatha and Queenstown, and shot and killed five policemen and a soldier.

A subsequent raid at the Seven Angels Ministry left seven people, suspected to be involved in the murders, dead.

Three Mancoba brothers, who were church leaders, were among those killed.

At least six people were arrested.

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– FOLLOW News24 on Twitter | Former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha dies

Apartheid-era foreign affairs minister Pik Botha has died in his Pretoria home at the age of 86, his family confirmed on Friday morning.

His son, Piet Botha, who is in the band Jack Hammer, confirmed to News24 that his father died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of the morning.

“His wife Ina was with him until the end,” he said.

“He was very sick during the last three weeks and his body just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Piet Botha added that he would always remember his father for having the ability to immediately sort out issues if there was any trouble, and that he will miss him dearly.

OBITUARY: Pik Botha – a good man working for a bad government 

Botha was admitted to a Pretoria hospital in late September.

Roelof “Pik” Botha was the world’s longest-serving foreign minister. He was born in April 1932, and according to SA History Online the law graduate started in the foreign affairs department in 1953.

In April 1977, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and represented the constituency of Westdene in Johannesburg. Botha was appointed minister of mineral of energy affairs in 1994 and resigned from that post in May 1996.

Botha famously changed allegiance from the National Party to the African National Congress in 2000. | Pik Botha: A good man working for a bad government

Roelof “Pik” Botha, who has died at the age of 86, was the world’s longest-serving foreign minister, a charismatic career diplomat-turned-politician whose negotiating skills were in high demand as international opposition to apartheid gathered pace, particularly in the 1980s.

Greatly admired, even by many of his political foes, the verligte or “enlightened” Botha was, as one western diplomat put it, “a good man working for a bad government, one of the first National Party leaders who saw that democracy was inevitable. South Africa could have avoided years of turmoil and bloodshed if the NP had taken his advice”.

And therein lay the rub. The merits of a “good man” serving apartheid have been questioned by those who have argued that, thanks to Botha’s diplomatic successes — and they were considerable, given the odds — the advent of a democratic South Africa was considerably deferred. Simply put, he further delayed the inevitable.

It said a lot for his negotiation skills that his greatest successes in foreign affairs came in the mid-1980s, precisely at a time when the government’s stubborn reluctance to scrap its apartheid policies was contributing to its further isolation.

He was, for example, instrumental in setting up the 1984 Nkomati Accord, a non-aggression pact signed by Pretoria and the communist People’s Republic of Mozambique that was viewed with derision by other southern African countries.

It was soon revealed to be an agreement of little substance. Despite its stated intentions, Maputo continued to offer support to the then-banned African National Congress, and Pretoria continued, despite repeated pleas from Mozambique’s Samora Machel, to supply arms to the rebel Renamo group.

More impressively, however, Botha arranged for Willie van Niekerk, then administrator-general of South West Africa, as Namibia was known when the territory was under Pretoria’s control, and various other internal political parties to meet with insurgent Swapo leader Sam Nujoma in Zambia.

At the same time Botha also maintained an ongoing dialogue with the government of Angola to prepare for an end to the so-called “Border War”, and to thus pave the way for Namibian independence.

His other significant achievement at the time was to organise then-prime minister PW Botha’s (no relation) European tour in May and June 1984.

Again, the 18-day, nine-nation trip was trumpeted as a diplomatic breakthrough and an indication that the isolation from the international community was drawing to a close.

Nothing could have been further from the truth, and those Western European governments that met the South Africans all reaffirmed their continued opposition to Pretoria’s racial policies.

Journalists who were assigned to cover these trips soon learnt that Botha had very little in common with his dour prime minister, and that his legendary reputation as a bon vivant and raconteur was not without foundation.

Simply put, Botha liked to drink – and he often chose to do so with journalists. These “off-duty” moments were often hilarious, especially when Botha was in a mischievous mood.

On one particularly long flight, he filled an ice bucket with the contents of various miniature bottles of spirits to produce a lethal concoction which he passed around like a large African calabash. When that was finished he began “throwing” the empty bottles – as a sangoma with bones – to jokingly predict the journalists’ futures.

On another occasion, this time in Rome, Botha filled a large ceremonial marble skull with grappa and had the press corps drink it. Later, the press corps all joked that it was the first time they’d been drunk “out of someone else’s head”.

The fact that none of these stories surfaced during Botha’s lifetime, and the rule that “what happens on the trip, stays on the trip” was universally upheld, spoke volumes of the fourth estate’s respect for him.

Botha’s poetic streak, one of staggering sentimentality, would often surface when he was in his cups. One rambling soul-searching free verse epic, scrawled on the back of a cigarette box around a bushveld campfire, read thus:

“Who am I?/an astronaut/a passenger/an animal/an almoner/a rover/hunter often missing the mark/thief who lies and deceives/wage earner/cave dwell-er/Afrikaner/twister of facts/middle-aged man/awaiting the grave/summonsed and awaiting trial/victim of my own thoughts/the hunter and the hunted/defenceless before fate/beachcomber and shipwreck/bruised branch/smoking wick/hypocritical believer…”

Another time, he declared, “Forget me. Who am I? In time and space, I am nothing.”

Away from such introspection, however, South Africa’s relationship with the outside world continued to sour as the hard-line government of PW Botha, now president, increasingly resorted to violent methods to quell growing domestic protests.

Pik Botha’s first run-in with his boss came in 1985 when he reportedly drafted a speech that would have announced the release of the imprisoned ANC leader, Nelson Mandela. The draft was rejected by President Botha.

Then, in February 1986, Botha told a Cape Town press conference that it was possible the country would be ruled by a black president provided minority rights were guaranteed.

A furious President Botha, however, publicly repudiated him for this statement, and Pik Botha was forced to acknowledge, in a letter to his boss, that a black president was not part of government policy.

But the downfall of the Nationalists was already on the cards.

In December 1988, he flew to Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, to sign a peace protocol with Angolan and Cuban representatives.

At the signing he announced, “A new era has begun in South Africa. My government is removing racial discrimination. We want to be accepted by our African brothers.”

This time there would be no such repudiation from PW Botha. Within weeks, the president would suffer the stroke that led to his resignation, and the eventual appointment of FW de Klerk as the last apartheid leader.

After the country’s first democratic elections, in 1994, Botha went on serve in President Nelson Mandela’s government as Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs from 1994 to 1996, after which he retired from politics.

He emerged from retirement in 2000 to declare his support for President Thabo Mbeki, and it was reported that he had joined the ANC. But he denied this in a 2013 interview in which he criticised the government’s affirmative action programme.

The son of a school principal, Roelof Frederick Botha was born on April 27, 1932, in Rustenberg, in the then Transvaal. When he was four, the boy was struck by meningitis while on holiday in Mozambique and was treated at a hospital in Barberton. His mother vowed that if he survived, he would become a church minister.

He attended Paul Kruger Primary School, where his father taught, and Hoër Volkskool in Potchefstroom, where he became chairman of the debating society, captain of the first rugby team, and an officer in the school cadets.

He studied law at the University of Pretoria, where a theologian explained to him he was in no way bound to honour his mother’s promise to God that he become a man of the cloth.

After completing his degree, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in February 1953, and in 1956 was posted to Sweden and then, in 1960, to West Germany.

It was about this time that he acquired his nickname, Pik – short for “pikkewyn”, Afrikaans for penguin – because his posture resembled that of the seabird whenever he wore a suit.

Upon his return to South Africa, in 1963, he joined the legal team to represent South Africa in their case at the International Court of Justice at the Hague over the administration of South West Africa.

The case, brought by Liberia and Ethiopia, ran from 1965 to 1966 and was ultimately dismissed the court ruled that the two African countries had no jurisdiction in the matter.

Botha was then appointed Foreign Affairs’ law adviser and between 1966 and 1974 attended various sessions of the United Nations General Assembly as a member of the South African delegation. He rose up through the ranks and was eventually appointed Ambassador to the UN. A month into the job, however, South Africa was suspended and he returned home.

He was by then a prominent Nationalist MP, having won the Wonderboom seat in 1970 and 1974. In 1977 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and in the same year became MP for Westdene, the Johannesburg constituency he represented for the rest of his career.

He is survived by his second wife, Ina, who he married in August 1998, and his four children and several grandchildren. His first wife, Helena, died in April 1996 after a long illness.

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