Today's Big Stories

Cuba and the US restore ties, SARS Suspensions & SAPS: safety in festive season

Cuba and the US make history: restore ties

On Tuesday, following 18 months of secret talks, Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call to a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce.

The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches, on Wednesday. Obama explained that he was ending a rigid and outdated policy of isolating the country as it has failed, for centuries, to bring change to the island.

Speaking to Udo Carelse on 702 and Cape Talk, Associate Editor at the Daily Maverick, Brooks Specter explained that the move was good policy, that will have an effect on the next election. He outlined the fact that although Obama may be unable to lift the trade embargo without first consenting with congress the move, should it be formalized, would benefit trade for both countries.

Changing the regulations on the way in which an American is licensed to travel to Cuba, or the way in which companies can be licensed to export commodities to Cuba. Cuba is a good market for American agriculturural products - it would be if there hadn't been a trade embargo ... So while some of those things are legislated by congress, but others aren't and if you smoke cigars ... it'll be a better deal for you too.

Daily Maverick Associate Editor, Brooks Specter

Photo: American and Cuban Presidents, Barack Obama and Fidel Castro shake hands at Nelson Mandela's Memorial Service in 2013.

Follow a timeline of the history of Cuba's relationship with the US here.

SAPS: Are we safe this festive season?

Heading into the festive season, statistically there has been a spike in crime around this time of year every year. Udo spoke to Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, who explained the SAPS' contingency plan to prevent and discourage crime in this time:

3 months ago we launched a festive season plan, which we called "When Duty Calls". In it we are focussing around 6 broad areas, amongst which is the question of armed robberies, the issue of murder and high-jacking, mall robberies was also a specific focus. But we are also placing focus on the issue of border management issues, because ... you have quite a lot of criminal activities taking place from this end into a neighbouring state. We are working together with the SANDF and the Department of Home Affairs to follow through on these particular cases.

South African Police Minister, Nkosinathi Nhleko

What exactly is happening at SARS?

The labour court in Johannesburg is where SARS' suspended Deputy Commissioner, Ivan Pillay will find out today if his suspension will be lifted.

On Wednesday, the South African Revenue Service withdrew the suspension of Strategic Planning and Risk Group Executive, Peter Richter following a statement released by the President's Office distancing President Jacob Zuma from the suspension of SARS staff members.

In court yesterday, Pillay's lawyer told the court that his client's suspension had been "pre-planned" and that because the correct procedures had not been followed leading up to the suspension, Pillay's suspension should be lifted.

Last week EWN reported that the attorney for the SARS panel said that there were no findings against Pillay and Richter.

Whichever way you look at it, the context here ... Tom Moyane comes in and one of his first acts is to disband his Executive Committee, so that's the sort of Top 8 at SARS underneath him. Then he suspends Richter and Pillay, then Barry Hall the Chief Operating Officer took leave in the middle of all of that and then it seems two of the other people have been suspended ... So we have Moyane coming in and he seems to be cleaning up everything from what we can see, that means then that there is serious trouble at SARS and has been for some time and Moyane has got to remove all of the people involved and start again OR it means that Moyane's come in and removed everyone who was actually doing anything at SARS.

702 and Cape Talk Anchor, Stephen Grootes
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