Today's Big Stories

Medupi workers go on holiday during power crisis

Holidays during a power crisis: a series of claims in the Sunday Times newspaper state that the 13 000 workers building Eskom’s new power station at Medupi have packed up and gone on holiday, despite the fact that we face loadshedding because of the delays in building this power station. Acting Spokesperson for Eskom, Khulu Phasiwe:

"At the moment, there's very little construction going on in and we expect it to resume in the second week of January. They (the construction workers) are working for contractors such as Murray and Roberts and a lot of them are from outside Gauteng and have been given a break by their employers. Medupi is not a fully-functioning power station at the moment - it's a construction site. We are currently working on the synchronisation of the units at Medupi, to be taken to the national grid before the second week of January.

Election of EFF leadership: in Bloemfontein at the Economic Freedom fighters conference that’s seen top leadership elected – along with threats against the ANC – and claims that the EFF is the ruling party in waiting. On Sunday, Julius Malema was elected unopposed as President of the party and Floyd Shivambu is now his Deputy, while Advocate Dali Mpofu is the chairman. EWN Correspondent, Govan Whittles:

Malema described the conference opening as 'the perfect opening' with no violence. While it has been open to democracy (the voting), there has been some contestation. In terms of lobbying, it seems as if the democratic structures are in place, with the Top 6 (leadership) and the provinces electing leadership in a representative manner. There's a pseudo-military style imaging of in the EFF and there's been comments that they haven't ruled out the armed struggle and we are seeing a lot of military group lingo being used, but as to whether they will act on this isn't clear.

A new 'united' group: Joburg on Sunday saw the launch of what had been billed as the United Front – a formation essentially formed by the metal workers union, Numsa. The elected leadership structure also includes people like Zackie Achmat and Ronnie Kasrils. Convenor of the United Front, Dinga Sikwebu:

There was never an intention to form a political party. The idea of the united Front is that it is a coalition of trade unions, and other social unions including rural movements, to ensure that the socio-economic needs of ordinary people are met. Politics are not reducible to party-politcal structures. The contestation of elections as an issue was raised in the assembly - that has been referred to the provinces and in April, we will come to a decision on that one. What is clear is that we are not forming this just to contest elections. Elections are important, but there are other ways of contesting power.

Independent political analyst, Ralph Mathekga:

The EFF has had a good run for the year, from earlier when the party was launched towards the elections and their manifesto launch and their run in Parliament has been good. They've got less than 7% of the national vote, but they've begun to re-write what it is to be an opposition party in this country. (On the United Front) I think they are being very circumspect because if they frame themselves as a front, they are able to avoid the slippary slope of being just another political party. In this way, the could also appeal to a broader spectrum (of voters).

SA economy holding its breath: news breaking on Friday evening is that the ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poors have decided to keep our ratings on hold, but have kept the outlook negative. Chief Economist at Econometrix, Dr Azar Jammine:

I think the ratings agencies are just giving us the benefit of the doubt right now and taking government's mid-term budget speech in October on measures to be implemented, at face value. If these measures are not met, then they will probably go ahead with the downgrade. If we have a strike in the public sector next year and government gives in to higher wage increases, all bets are off and we will experience a ratings downgrade. We do have a flexible exchange rate which can absorb shock and our exchange markets have a high level of development which allows us to borrow a bit more. These are factors that are not common in many other emerging markets.

CIA and SA links: a claim by the Open Source Foundation over the weekend is that South Africa may have helped the CIA in the torture and rendition of people claimed to be involved in terrorist operations. Their claim is based on a CIA report that was released by the US senate last week. In 2007 a Pakistani national – Khalid Rashid - disappeared from KwaZulu-Natal amid claims he had been taken away in a helicopter by people with American accents. The person who represented Rashid in a legal bid to have that deporation declared illegal was the attorney, Zahir Omar:

The then Minister of Intelligence approved the removal of Khalid Rashid from South Africa. During the Mbeki administration our country's government was involved in and supported this program. Khalid Rashid was taken away by a plane owned by a Russian, who was later found to have committed crimes against humanity.

#SydneySiege update: in Sydney, Australia, several people are still being held by an armed hostage taker at a Lindt Chocolate Café. Australian Correspondent, Jody Rogoff Moses:

It has been a dramatic day in Sydney and the city is still on lockdown. We at this stage do not know the exact number, but it is said that there are approximately 30 people inside that cafe at the moment and some footage of one gunman has also been release. Police have been understandably reluctant to give full information at the moment. Police say they are in contact with the gunmen or a gunman inside the cafe at the moment. We are currently in an exclusion zone outside the city and we've been told the city will remain on lock down until the siege is declared to be over and people have been urged to work from home.

#BlackLivesMatter protests across the US: massive protests in several US cities over the weekend against police harassment and violence against black people, especially in light of the recent fatal shooting of 43-year-old Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York City. EWN New York Correspondent, Nadia Neophytou:

It seems this has been the largest protest I have seen. An estimated 50 000 people were out on the streets in New York on Saturday. There were a lot of high-profile people involved in these protests against the hostility towards black people by police right now. (On the Eric Garner case) the immediate demand made by the protestors is that the police office involved be charged and that a different prosecutor will be used for this case.

Are The Simpsons the best?: a claim from an academic at Stanford University is that the cult animated US television programme, The Simpsons, is the most influential TV programme ever. SA Idols Judge and a true Simpsons aficionado, Randall Abrahams:

You're going back to November 1989, so it's quite a while! Many South Africans weren't even born then! (On it's popularity) if anything, it showed that many kids are a lot more intelligent depending on what they watch on television. All the political figures they featured on the show - this season has been confirmed now is the 27th season - they had quite a few iconic voices featured there. I think at least, for the forseeable future, we'll definitely be seeing a lot more of the Simpsons.

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