Archive for the ‘crime’ Category

Depressed commodity prices, the continuing economic downturn and pervasive illegal mining activities, have been hitting South Africa’s mining sector hard. Cost cutting plans, retrenchments and even mine closures are the order of the day.

While stimulating commodity prices and resuscitating the global economy are beyond the South African mining industry’s scope, the sector has no choice but to find a way to deal with illegal mining activities that are carried out without regard to issues of health, safety, and human rights.

Previously illegal mining activities were limited to abandoned mining operations where lax closure controls had enabled informal mining entrepreneurs to eke out a living re-mining old workings. Increasingly illegal mining is now taking place at operational mines with gangs violently fighting back against mine owners attempts to reclaim their legal operations.

Gangs operated by sophisticated syndicates have also reportedly taken to kidnapping informal mine workers underground, holding them captive for weeks at a time and forcing them to work for free. This is slave labour.  It would not be permitted above ground, so why is it allowed to take place below ground?

Combating illegal mining activities head-on is clearly not working as syndicates continue to extend their reach and to professionalise their activities in order to maximise their profits.  In addition, the next round of mine worker retrenchments is only likely to boost the ranks of illegal mining entrepreneurs making a living off South Africa’s mines. If something is not done to transform the current mining sector model, illegal mining will be the final death knell for South Africa’s ailing mining sector.

The formal mining industry needs to have a radical rethink about its current operating structures and find a way to incorporate different levels of mining entrepreneurs within their organisations. Legal opportunities for informal mining entrepreneurs that do not compete with formal mining activities need to be identified and built into the larger formal mining framework. These informal mining entrepreneurs could be supported by the larger mining entity while at the same time acting as a buffer against the spread of illegal mining syndicates that are already prepared to do battle to continue their illegal mining operations.

At present the pattern of illegal mining that is being allowed to persist is creating new chains of corruption that will be difficult to eradicate. These include the recruitment of legal miners to provide support to illegal mining operations by smuggling food and supplies underground or by renting out their access cards, policemen who lie in wait to grab the ill-gotten gains of informal mining entrepreneurs as they emerge into the light from their weeks spent working underground, and mine security officials who are bribed to turn a blind eye to illegal mining activities.

The mining sector needs to fight fire with fire. This requires being innovative in identifying solutions that will empower informal mining entrepreneurs and make them feel that they have a stake in legal mining operations. It won’t be easy, and will require co-operation from the mining companies, trade unions and government, all of whom have competing agendas. However, if compromises aren’t made and solutions identified, South Africa’s mining sector will find itself hijacked.


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Oprah Winfrey is to be commended on her handling of the allegations of assault by a school staff member against one of the girls attending the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley-on-Klip (IOL).

Oprah WinfreyOn hearing of the allegations, Oprah set up an internal inquiry, sent the headmistress – who was not involved in the incident – on a leave of absence, brought in investigators from the United States, called in the Child Protection Services, cancelled her appointments and flew into South Africa to address concerned parents and to deal with the matter in person. It is apparent to observers that the allegations are being taken very seriously.  

One certainly gets the impression that Oprah is going to leave no stone unturned, until she establishes the truth behind the allegations of assault at her school for disadvantaged girls. And this is how it should be (News24). 

Contrast this to the allegations of sexual misconduct by the late Bishop Reginald Orsmond, a highly regarded South African Catholic bishop who founded Boys Town in 1958. 

Mario D’Offizi, a former resident of Boys’ Town, has claimed in his book, “Bless Me Father”, that Orsmond sexually abused him during the three years he spent at the institution in the 1960s (Saturday Star). Since coming forward with his story, two more victims have come forward with similar claims. In addition a former Boys’ Town staff member has alleged that it was an open secret that Orsmond had boys sleeping in his room in the 1970s (Saturday Star). 

The South African Catholic Church has issued a statement expressing its shock over the allegations and has invited the D’Offizi and the other “victims” to share their stories with the relevant church authority (Saturday Star). One certainly feels no sense of urgency or horror from them at the thought that the Catholic church may have once again been sheltering a monster in its midst. Instead one suspects that the matter is going to die a quiet death. 

The fact that Orsmond died in 2002 and is not able to stand up for himself, does makes this matter more complicated. However this does not mean that the allegations should not be thoroughly investigated.  

Orsmond may have done a great deal of good work and may have inspired generations of young boys to lead better lives, but if he is guilty of having preyed on some of the young boys in his care, the Catholic Church has a moral duty to investigate properly for the sake of the alleged victims and for the sake of the church as a whole. There have been too many scandals of this nature perpetrated and covered up by the Catholic Church authorities. 

The Catholic leadership has to stop protecting the pedophiles in its ranks and go after them with vigour and determination. If Orsmond is innocent, a determined and thorough investigation will prove the allegations to be unfounded and Orsmond can rest easy, his reputation in tact. However, if Orsmond is found to be guilty, the church has a duty to make it up to the victims by ensuring that the Catholic Church is no longer a sanctuary for practicing pedophiles. 

The Catholic Church has failed its worldwide congregation over the years, by shuffling pedophiles from one parish to the next, leaving the victims to pick up the pieces while providing the predators with new, unsuspecting victims. It is time for the church to take a leaf out of Oprah Winfrey’s book and deal decisively with such matters, instead of hiding behind closed doors and hoping the problem will go away.

Photo credit
Alan Light – www.flickr.com/photos/alan-light/216012860/

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South Africa’s National Director of Public Prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, has been given the boot. 

Vusi PikoliOn the one hand Pikoli is alleged to have issued an arrest warrant for South Africa’s national police commissioner Jackie Selebi and on the other he is alleged to have been unable to work with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Brigitte Mabandla. He has since been accused of failing to reconise the minister’s authority and of being unfit to hold office. It is all very worrying. 

President Mbeki appears very quick to suspend officials who blow the whistle on wrong-doing (former deputy minister of health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and parliament’s former chief financial officer Harry Charlton) and not so quick to suspend others whose suitability for office is questionable (Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the Travelgate MPs).

Whistleblowers are not wanted is the message that is coming through strongly and clearly. The alleged charges in the arrest warrant issued by Pikoli are reported to be linked to Selebi’s alleged friendship with businessman Glenn Agliotti, who is suspected of participating in the murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble. Agliotti, who is under house arrest, has denied any involvement in Kebble’s murder and Selebi denies any knowledge of Agliotti’s alleged international crime syndicate connections.  Jackie Selebi

Government spokesperson, Themba Maseko, has confirmed that President Thabo Mbeki’s reason for suspending Pikoli was due to the breakdown of the relationship between Pikoli and the minister. And he has denied that the suspension was aimed at protecting national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who is ironically president of Interpol, from prosecution. 

Speculation has been mounting for months, if not years, about Selebi’s alleged links to organised crime. The Mail & Guardian’s Sam Sole states that the Scorpions have been investigating Selebi for almost two years and that Mbeki has been aware of the Scorpions’ investigation (Mail and Guardian 5-11 October 2007).  Despite this, Mbeki has not gone the route of suspending Selebi. 

Surely the fact that South Africa’s top police official is suspected of being involved with crime syndicates is a matter urgently needing investigation and he should be suspended while the matter is looked into.  

Unfortunately we have a case where the national public prosecutor responsible for issuing the arrest warrant is the one who has been suspended and the person suspected of links to international crime syndicates is carrying on with his job unhindered. 

To add insult to injury, acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mokotedi Mpshe is to review all cases that were being handled by Pikoli. Mpshe is also tasked with establishing whether there is sufficient evidence for these cases to proceed. It will be very interesting to see which cases proceed and which get withdrawn.  

Instead of Selebi’s conduct falling under the spotlight, Pikoli’s fitness to hold office as the National Director of Public Prosecutions is being investigated by former National Assembly speaker, Frene Ginwala.  That a former ANC politician has been chosen to preside over the matter instead of a judge has added to the controversy. (Read more about Selebi, Agliotti and Kebble in the Mail & Guardian Special Report) 

Photo credits
Vusi Pikoli – Source – www.npa.gov.za/UploadedFiles/Vusi-Pikoli.gif
Jackie Selebi – Source – www.interpol.int/Public/icpo/governance/ec/default.asp

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So the case against Madeleine McCann’s parents is facing collapse. How could this be? 

Last week Kate McCann was all but found guilty of overdosing her child, hiding her body, leaving DNA samples of Madeleine’s hair and blood in the hired car and dumping her body into the sea from a yacht based in the area. It was all so cut and dry. The “evil mother’s” alleged actions backed up by entries in her diary complaining about her children’s misbehaviour and her husband’s lack of support. 

And now the about-turn…  

The wild accusations have all but dried up. A senior Portuguese prosecutor has admitted there is no new evidence and no charges are to be made against the couple.  

How is it possible that we could have had weeks of mounting “evidence” pointing to the McCann’s implication in their daughter’s death and, just like that, it all ends. Where does that leave the audience following these stories? The speculation is over and there is no explanation from the media, no tying up of loose ends…just a sheer abandonment of the allegations into the public arena. Where does that leave the McCanns?

The McCann Family

If it had just been the tabloids running the stories, it would have been ok – after all we expect this kind of baseless speculation from them. But all the doping and DNA-in-the-boot stories were in my local “quality” mainstream South African newspapers.  

Does the media really take their audience to be such fools? Taking their readers on wild rollercoaster rides of innuendo and then walking off, leaving no answers, while they move onto some other more compelling subject. Giving no acknowledgement of having led their audience astray or any indication of an intention to investigate the matter further. 

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their book Warp Speed make an interesting point about today’s media culture. They state that while the new mixed media culture of today initially relies on legitimate sources for its breaking news, it almost immediately begins to push the story forward, even if there are no new facts. They add that there is a growing tendency to quickly follow up stories by relying on thin or secondhand sources to provide provocative new twists and what-ifs.   

The authors identify a growing sense of incompleteness in today’s media with stories coming out piece meal, an allegation now, followed by counter allegation a few hours later. This makes paying attention to the media’s message, a waste of time and eventually also creates a kind of numbness for the audience. Kovach and Rosenstiel point out that the press doesn’t take the time to sum up and analyse events. They are always moving onto the next thing, grasping for an interesting twist in the tale.  

Stories – just like the McCann revelations in recent weeks – get more confusing, and more contradictory. Separating fact and allegations becomes a daunting task for the media audience.  

I would say that this sums up my experiences of following the McCann revelations. But where does this leave us.  

Is the media here to keep us informed or are they here to keep us entertained? Which of their stories are fact and which are fiction? Are they just a medium and not responsible for the messages they churn out? What is their role in modern society? Are they just businesses seeking to make a profit or do they have a responsibility to uphold and protect democracy? Does anyone care? 

Photo credit
Source: www.findmadeleine.com

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