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Yesterday — May 13th 2021Your RSS feeds

DA wants Facebook to outline plans to deal with fake election news

May 13th 2021 at 09:26

Ahead of the local government elections in October, the DA wants Facebook to outline to South Africans what steps it will be taking to tackle the harmful effects of misinformation and fake news on its platform.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme on Thursday confirmed Facebook will be appearing before parliament’s portfolio committee on communications and digital technologies on 25 May 2021 following a request by the party.

“The reason for inviting Facebook was with the view of ascertaining what steps the tech giant will be taking in tackling harmful misinformation, particularly as we inch towards the 2021 local government elections. Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation. We would like to see the same done for South Africa,” Van Damme said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Why fake news is so dangerous

The meeting with Facebook is said to be historic because it is the first time Facebook has agreed to appear before a parliamentary committee on the African continent. Similar invitations have also been sent to other major tech companies like Google and Twitter.

While commending Facebook for agreeing to attend, Van Damme said she hoped the meeting would be constructive.

She said the DA had been at the forefront of addressing the issue of disinformation and matters related to digital transformation in South Africa and the party was pleased the committee was giving the issue the importance it deserves.

Paying local media outlets for content

The DA also wants Facebook and other social media sites to consider paying local media companies for carrying their content.

This follows the historic passing of a law in Australia in February that requires digital platforms like Facebook and Google to pay local media outlets and publishers to link their content in news feeds or search results.

“Of importance is also the protection of the private data of South African users of Facebook-owned platforms as well as the beginning of discussions regarding Facebook paying South African media houses for carrying their content as was recently implemented in Australia.

“The aim of discussions with Facebook will be to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are protected as well as upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Van Damme said.

The DA said it would oppose any proposals that curtail the rights of South Africans to share their thoughts and opinions that fall under protected freedom of speech.

READ NEXT: Mental health issues only seems funny on social media memes

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IEC announces one-off voter registration weekend ahead of polls

May 12th 2021 at 10:41

Ahead of the local government elections later this year, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has announced dates for a national voter registration.

On the weekend of 17-18 July 2021, voting stations will open to assistance voters with their registration details.

“Over this weekend all 23,146 voting stations around the country will open from 8am to 5pm to assist new voters to register and existing voters to check and, where necessary, update their registration details,” the IEC said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Cash-strapped ANC may struggle in elections

According to the electoral commission, this set weekend will be the last “opportunity for voters to register and check their registration at their voting stations”.

“However, on-going voter registration will continue during working hours at local IEC offices until the proclamation of the elections,” the electoral commission said.

On 21 April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced 27 October as the date for the local government elections, urging eligible – and especially first-time voters – to ensure they were registered to participate in the elections.

“This will be the sixth time under South Africa’s democratic dispensation that voters will elect leadership and public representatives at metropolitan, district and local level,” the Presidency said at the time.

Budgets cuts

On Monday, the IEC tabled a a revised 2021-2022 budget of R1.9 billion to cover the cost of running South Africa’s first post-Covid elections.

Addressing the parliamentary home affairs portfolio committee on the IEC’s annual budget and performance plan – including administration, electoral operations and party funding – IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo conceded the country’s fiscal climate and a battered economy had led to drastic cuts in commission operations – amounting to R663 million.

The budget will see 27% spent on electoral operations, staff expansion and events, with 10% going to registration, voting material, warehousing and distribution costs.

ALSO READ: Why there’s no good ANC

Additional reporting by Eric Naki and Brian Sokutu

Action SA calls on members to be mayoral candidates

May 10th 2021 at 08:02

Action SA is calling on members to apply to be a mayoral candidate in cities. This as the party opens its mayoral candidate election process on Monday.

“These candidates will be subjected to public scrutiny through an open campaign that will culminate in the holding of the candidate elections,” said leader Herman Mashaba.

The party last month unveiled its candidate election system which seeks to give South Africans the power to directly elect the candidates they want to represent Action SA on the ballot papers in the coming local government elections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the 2021 local government elections will take place on Wednesday, 27 October.

“This will be the sixth time under South Africa’s democratic dispensation that voters will elect leadership and public representatives at metropolitan, district and local level,” said the Presidency.

ALSO READ: Mashaba slams Malema’s ‘hypocritical, unconstitutional’ call for election delay

Action SA has argued that its candidate election system puts power in the hands of communities who would otherwise give their votes to political parties and be given ineffective candidates in return.

“We reiterate our invitation that any eligible voter may participate in our candidate elections, subject to them registering on our online portal. We want South Africans from all works of life who are committed to fighting for the wellbeing of residents to stand up and be counted. We want residents to identify and select candidates through a transparent selection process,” said Mashaba.

“We are disrupting the political landscape in South Africa by ensuring our candidates are directly accountable to residents first and Action SA second. The days of political elites hand picking candidates for political positions is a thing of the past and Action SA is driving that change.”

Once candidates apply for an opportunity to represent their cities, they will be put to the test by residents of every ward through open debates, he said.

Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Who are you representing? EFF quizzes Ramaphosa over ANC ‘suspension’

May 6th 2021 at 11:08

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday was quizzed by the EFF over his “suspension” from the ANC by embattled secretary-general Ace Magashule.

While he was replying to MP’s oral questions in the National Assembly, EFF deputy president and MP Floyd Shivambu, attempted to ask the president about his suspension.

ALSO READ: ‘I’m still the secretary-general’ – defiant Magashule sticks to his guns

However, he was shot down by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli, who said the question was not related to Ramaphosa’s responsibilities as the head of state.

“We are here to listen to the president of the country and so this is what is going to proceed,” Tsenoli said.

But Shivambu insisted his question needed to be addressed in Parliament before the president could respond to MPs’ questions.

“He must clarify who is he representing, is he representing his jacket or a political party because he is not,” he said.

Some ANC MPs could also be heard bashing Shivambu for his point of order and questioned why he was interested in the internal matters of the party.

This followed Magashule’s suspension letter addressed to Ramaphosa that surfaced on Wednesday following his suspension from the ANC due to his corruption trial.

In the letter, dated 3 May 2021, Magashule cited allegations of vote buying involving Ramaphosa’s CR17 ANC presidential campaign and the court case related to the sealing of the campaign’s financial records.

Voters still have confidence in ANC, says Ramaphosa

At the same time, Ramaphosa said the ANC would participate in the coming local government elections in October with a “great deal of enthusiasm”.

Ramaphosa said the ANC’s recent electoral wins in by-elections were an indication that a majority of South Africans still had confidence in the governing party.

This is despite continued infighting and divisions among ANC leaders over the implementation of the party’s step aside resolution.

“The ANC will participate in the forthcoming elections with a great deal of enthusiasm. We get elected to represent the people of our country.

“As you would have seen and this I say with all humility without being arrogant, the majority of our people still have confidence in the ANC,” Ramaphosa said.

He was responding to a supplementary question from National Freedom Party (NFP) MP Shaik Emam, who wanted to know whether the ANC and other political parties that received funds from companies accused of corruption would consider withdrawing from the polls in the interest of “creating a better society”.

“No, we will not, because our people want us to continue addressing their aspirations and fulfilling their dreams, which we continue doing on an ongoing basis. I’m sorry therefore to disappoint you and say we will not withdraw,” Ramaphosa said.

Last week, Ramaphosa admitted to the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture that with hindsight, the ANC would not have knowingly accepted donations from corruption-accused company Bosasa. He was testifying at the commission in his capacity as the leader of the ANC.

Ramaphosa told MPs voters had confidence in the ANC because they could see the party was addressing its past mistakes.

“Those people can see what is happening and they see that the ANC is in a process of renewing itself, rebuilding itself, correcting itself and demonstrating its determination to focus on the interests of our people.

“They themselves are investing confidence in the ANC.”

READ NEXT: Ramaphosa remains ‘very resolute’ to address ANC corruption, says Pandor

Citizens are gatvol of lax politicians, while elections loom

April 25th 2021 at 14:02

The imminent local government elections have seen a quick rise in community engagements, street-side  consultations and parking lot canvassing.

An election date announcement is expected soon. Banter and rhetoric between political glitterati will increase while, on the ground, potholes continue to spread at virus pace, power cuts from ailing infrastructure defeat  business owners and ratepayers throw up their arms in disbelief that another five-year term of decay has passed.

The 2018-19 Auditor-General’s report on municipalities showed R32 billion of irregular expenditure, of which more than R11 billion was payment for goods and services not received.

Citizens have, in many instances, taken it upon themselves to start fixing stuff.

In Boksburg, Hansie Myburgh roams the streets with sacks of tarmac, fixing potholes. The Sunninghill residents’ association repairs its own “baby dongas” when financially possible and takes care of open spaces. In Mayfair, there is a six-year effluent leak that still needs to be repaired.

And residents are gatvol.

A fortnight ago The Citizen reported on Sunninghill residents’ battle with Democratic Alliance (DA) City of Joburg ward councillor Candice James.

Since then, residents from Lonehill, Mayfair and Kyalami have joined the fray.

A petition in Lonehill and Kyalami demanded the removal of its councillor, David Foley, from office.

Residents blamed him for the installation of a sewage pipeline across a wetland without a water licence; the safety of a dangerous intersection and a host of other service delivery failures.

Whereas James seemed to have ignored her constituents and is yet to respond to The Citizen’s queries, Foley replied quickly, saying he became a councillor to make a difference.

“We all try our best to add value to the community,” he said. He added he sacrificed weekends and after-hours time for his ward. He had a full-time job, too.

He offered to compile a report on achievements and work done in the ward and was clearly passionate about his community. Foley planned to stand for re-election this year, but said all the criticism levelled at him did make him wonder about reconsidering.

‘Out of our hands’

Frustrated residents, he suspected, were directing their anger at him due to sustained service delivery issues from  council. Johannesburg DA caucus leader Leah Knott said there were about 100 signatures on the petition.

The DA was “currently engaging with the community in terms of where they have identified issues”.

“The DA caucus is always available to engage with communities around service delivery matters as we strive to  work with residents, regardless of our limitations in terms of not being in government and in line with legislation and roles.

“Councillors are required to be available to their communities and councillor Foley is accessible to his community via phone and e-mail, among others.”

Knott said the DA’s councillors were all expected to be active in their wards, as well as being reasonably available to residents. Their performance was assessed on a regular basis. In many instances opposition ward councillors’ hands were tied.

“Councillors by law cannot interfere in the management or administration of any department of the municipal council unless mandated by council itself,” she said. “Involving themselves in operational functions outside of their oversight role is a serious breach of the code of conduct and subject to investigation and action.”

Council and committees were the official forums for councillors to raise issues.

Former DA member of parliament Mike Waters, who beat the streets as a ward councillor early on in his political
career, said it was not easy being an opposition ward councillor.

“Councillors’ powers are very limited, and I can attest from personal experience that sometimes it feels like banging your head against a brick wall when trying to deal with service delivery matters.”

Waters no longer fulfilled a public role but remained political head of the party on the East Rand. He has taken up a crusade against infrastructure decay in Ekurhuleni.

“How can the mayor claim it is a world-class city when he simply needs to step out of his office and see the seriousness of the situation,” he asked in a statement.

DA councillor Alex Christians was the subject of a 2018 internal and council forensic investigation into  irregularities surrounding the illegal occupation and use of the Mayfair Bowling Club. He was accused of influence
peddling and an R800 000 bribe, but no evidence was discovered.

He said the charges were brought against him initially by the parties that lost a tender for use of the premises.

“When they failed to get the premises, they came out with these allegations without proof, which the forensic report confirmed.

“This issue still has to appear before the ethics committee and the integrity officer has done his report for the committee to bring to council.”

Christians said he looked forward to his name being cleared. He added the “Mayfair Bowling Club has now been completely hijacked, with even the recreation centre that has been divided into illegal rooms rented out by Sanco
[South African National Civic Organisation].

“The grounds are now a complete car park. The school that was once there cleaning it up is now no longer doing so after more than 25 years of service.”

Yet residents that spoke to The Citizen believed it was his role as ward councillor to address this issue.

Christians said he was aware of a list of almost 2 000 issues in the community which required some form of address from council. He had logged these with council.

In his response to The Citizen, Christians also listed an impressive array of initiatives aimed at resolving some of the issues.

– heink@citizen.co.za

Ramaphosa announces local government elections date

April 21st 2021 at 14:19

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the date for the 2021 local government elections.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Presidency said elections would take place on Wednesday, 27 October.

“This will be the sixth time under South Africa’s democratic dispensation that voters will elect leadership and public representatives at metropolitan, district and local level,” the Presidency said.

“The minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs will follow the necessary legal process to proclaim the date and undertake other requirements.

“The president urges eligible – and especially first-time voters – to ensure they are registered to participate in the elections which provide the basis for development and service delivery closest to where citizens live.”

Although some opposition parties, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), wanted the elections postponed, Ramaphosa hinted last week that they would go ahead this year as scheduled. The EFF cited the inability to campaign due to Covid-19 restrictions as the reason behind their call for a postponement.

Addressing a by-election campaign in Durban last Thursday in his capacity as ANC president, Ramaphosa said as the ruling party they believed that the upcoming local government elections should go ahead, adding that the governing party was ready for them.

Earlier in April, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) told Parliament that they were ready to deliver free and fair elections when called upon to do, adding that the Constitution did not allow for a postponement.

IEC vice-chairperson Janet Love said not having the election would lead to a legitimacy problem for current councillors when their terms end.

Commission deputy CEO for election operations Masego Sheburi elaborated on the issue, saying the Constitution placed a ceiling of five years on municipal councillors’ terms.

“The Constitution further dictates an election must be held within 90 days of the expiry of the term,” he said.

Additional reporting by Eric Naki

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