Courtney Pieters murder: NPA to seek two life sentences for Mortimer Saunders

Courtney Pieters murder: NPA to seek two life sentences for Mortimer Saunders

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has said it will seek two life sentences for Mortimer Saunders who was found guilty of raping and murdering Courtney Pieters, 3, on Wednesday.

Courtney’s decomposing body was found in Epping industrial area near her home in May 2017.

Western Cape High Court Judge Babalwa Pearl Mantame on Wednesday found Saunders guilty of feeding the toddler ant poison before raping and killing her.

READ: ‘Vicious, brutal, inhumane’ – court’s damning verdict

“We are pleased with the outcome of this case. We will ask for a prescribed minimum sentence for each of the charges which is life imprisonment for each – the murder and the rape,” NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said.

“We want to thank and appreciate the efforts of prosecutor Esmeralda Cecil who ensured that she would do whatever possible to prove that the accused raped the child while she was still alive, as well as premeditated murder.”

Ntabazalila also thanked State pathologist Professor Johan Dempers and the DNA experts for their evidence, as well as members of the Elsies River community who came out in their numbers to support the State’s case.

Courtney’s supporters celebrated on the steps of the court and one resident had a warning for parents in the community.

“It won’t stop here,” Elsies River resident Menicia Botha said.

“We’re going further. We are going for each child, irrespective who they are. To those parents, I want to tell you now – if we see a child walking alone, we are coming for you. To those parents who lay drunk, we are coming for you.”

Pre-sentencing proceedings will begin on December 4.

300 drivers fired after testing positive for marijuana: Company stands firm on sackings

300 drivers fired after testing positive for marijuana: Company stands firm on sackings

300 drivers fired after testing positive for marijuana: Company stands firm on sackings
300 drivers fired after testing positive for marijuana: Company stands firm on sackings

A Pretoria-based trucking company has defended its decision to dismiss 300 of its drivers who tested positive for dagga.

“Yes, unfortunately we had to dismiss 300 of our truck drivers after they tested positive for marijuana use, which is in violation of our company Innovative Staffing Solutions’ code of conduct,” Arnoux Maré, MD of Innovative Staffing Solutions told News 24 on Wednesday.

This comes after the Constitutional Court decriminalised the private use of dagga in South Africa.

ALSO READ: Why it’s a good thing the ConCourt legalised private use of marijuana

Management, however, insists that the Constitutional Court ruling has nothing to do with the regular testing of its drivers.

“Testing for illegal substances and alcohol abuse while on duty has been part and parcel of our procedures since we opened our company many years ago. All drivers at Innovative Staffing Solutions sign a contract that specifies the terms of their employment.

“The contract states that the employee undertakes and understands that he/she is not allowed to work or be on either the employer’s, a client’s or any premises where working duties are performed, while under the influence of alcohol and/ or intoxicating drugs,” Maré explained.


Innovative Solutions stood by its decision because, in its view, the effects of the use of marijuana could be detectable in the bloodstream days after it was originally consumed.

“A trucker driving under the influence of cannabis can be likened to a non-coherent person barrelling a 60-ton missile down the road at 80 to 100km/h. If he or she loses control of the vehicle, innocent people are likely to lose their lives and infrastructure could be seriously damaged,” Maré said.

He said this increased risk of hurting people and incurring damage to personal or public property was too high for the company.

“Our drivers are expected to act responsibly. After all, they are responsible for ensuring valuable vehicles and their cargo gets from one destination to the next safely.”

Zuma to Gordhan: ‘Can we do what Dudu wants?’

Zuma to Gordhan: ‘Can we do what Dudu wants?’

Former president Jacob Zuma called Pravin Gordhan, then finance minister, in 2015 to try and convince him to agree to an enormously expensive deal with airplane manufacturer Airbus because his close friend Dudu Myeni wanted it.

In his 68-page sworn statement delivered to the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, Gordhan details a phone call he received from Zuma in which the then head of state implored his finance minister to agree to buy Airbus passenger planes instead of leasing them.

“In late December 2015, while driving on the N2 highway in Cape Town, I received a telephone call from former president Zuma enquiring whether we could do what Ms Myeni wanted with respect to the Airbus deal. I explained that we could not…It was clear to me that Ms Myeni contacted the former president and that had prompted his call to me,” Gordhan recalls.

Myeni, a very close friend of Zuma who also chaired his charitable foundation, was chairperson of SAA’s board at the time and had been at loggerheads with Nhlanhla Nene, who Zuma dismissed as finance minister shortly before the phone call to Gordhan. Nene refused – and Gordhan agreed – to enter into an agreement with Airbus which would see the embattled national carried buying a number of aircraft.

READ: Need to get Airbus deal through behind Nene axing – reports

The agreement was subsequently adapted whereby SAA would lease, rather than buy, the planes. Myeni, however, wanted SAA to buy the planes, sell them and lease them back from a local company.

Zuma a main enabler

In Gordhan’s statement, Zuma emerges as an ever-present actor in the decade-long state capture project, often intervening directly and unusually in deals and projects involving the acquisition of nuclear power, PetroSA’s aborted agreement to purchase a share of Engen and the establishment of Denel Asia, a Gupta proxy company.

Gordhan says Zuma took “profound interest” in “ordinary transactional matters” and that the levels of personal interest the then president showed in certain projects could point to a pattern that could help to understand how state capture worked.

Gordhan identifies the nuclear agreement with Russia as one that Zuma “made it clear” he wanted to proceed. Zuma reiterated his position at a later meeting between him, Gordhan and officials from Treasury and the Department of Energy.

A similar pattern was followed when there was a push for PetroSA to purchase a stake in Engen held by Malaysian company Petronas. When Treasury insisted a due diligence investigation be undertaken on interested parties before it could issue a government guarantee, Zuma called Gordhan directly and enquired about the status of the project. According to Gordhan, red flags were raised because there seemed to be “a reluctance and even avoidance” to do due diligence.

Moyane, Ntlemeza, Zwane left alone

Zuma also refused to do anything to break the deadlock between him and then commissioner of SARS Tom Moyane, Gordhan says. According to him the animosity was so bad that Moyane even refused to submit requests for leave to Gordhan and that he resolutely refused to submit himself to the minister’s authority.

“The former president did nothing to intervene in the deteriorating relationship, to facilitate adjudication of the dispute or to resolve it any other less formal way. It festered for many months, with Mr Moyane writing further letters about me to the president.”

And when Gordhan was targeted by the Hawks’ commander Berning Ntlemeza, the then head of state also seemingly sat back to watch events unfold. In his statement Gordhan details his anger when he was instructed to answer 27 questions from the Hawks shortly before he was to table the 2016 Budget.

After the Hawks – whose capture under Ntlemeza “was central to state capture” – delivered the questions to Gordhan, he went to see Zuma about the issue. Zuma however seemed nonplussed “and merely flipped through the letter” and said he would ask Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa about the matter. Ntlemeza’s actions were however swiftly defended by Nhleko and David Mahlobo (then minister of state security) at a joint press conference.

READ: 27 questions the Hawks want Pravin Gordhan to answer

Another incident detailed by Gordhan revolves around the unusual Cabinet intervention after the country’s biggest banks closed the Guptas’ accounts. Gordhan refused to take part in an investigation by a ministerial task team into the matter, which was led by known Gupta associate Mosebenzi Zwane, then Zuma’s minister of mineral resources.

In his statement Gordhan is loath to divulge details from confidential Cabinet meetings, but says it was clear that “Zwane had the full backing and support of former president Zuma in pursuing the task team’s objective of undermining and maligning the stance adopted by myself and National Treasury…”

State capture: Gordhan details meetings with the Guptas

State capture: Gordhan details meetings with the Guptas

State capture: Gordhan details meetings with the Guptas
State capture: Gordhan details meetings with the Guptas

Pravin Gordhan only officially met the Guptas once, and that was at a meeting requested by then-president Jacob Zuma somewhere between 2009 and 2014, Zuma’s first term. But Gordhan refused a meeting with them later on.

He did however come into contact with the family at the centre of state capture at least three other times, with two of those occurring at public and government events and the third at a business meeting.

This is according to a 68-page sworn statement signed by Gordhan on 11 October 2018 and delivered to the judicial inquiry into state capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Gordhan, currently minister of public enterprises, will deliver his testimony next week. He is, however, said to be angry that the statement has been leaked and is believed to have asked the commission for an explanation as to why it has not remained confidential.

The statement details how:

Zuma invited Gordhan to Pretoria to meet Ajay Gupta;
Gordhan greeted and saw some of the Gupta brothers at a cricket match and at government events; and
Tony Gupta insisted on a meeting between Gordhan and an Indian businessman who wanted to buy a stake in MTN.
The EFF on Wednesday issued a statement after details of Gordhan’s contact with the Guptas was published by BusinessLive. The party accuses Gordhan of complicity in state capture because the Guptas’ “gained traction” during his tenure as minister of finance.


The most significant interaction between the Guptas and Gordhan took place at a meeting which requested by Zuma in the period between 2009 and 2014. According to Gordhan, the meeting was held at the presidential guest house in Pretoria and that Zuma introduced Ajay Gupta as his “friend”.

Zuma told Gordhan, then finance minister, that Gupta had expertise in small business and finance. “I recall us exchanging generalities for a couple of minutes, but I do not recall the details of what was a very cursory exchange. Mr Gupta then excused himself and left me and the former president to continue our meeting,” Gordhan says.

According to Gordhan, he has never been to the Gupta family’s estate in Saxonwold in Johannesburg and he declined an invitation to attend the infamous Gupta family wedding at Sun City in 2013.

The statement makes it clear that Gordhan was a target for the Guptas, exactly like his successor as finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, was.

Gordhan also refused to schedule a meeting with the Guptas at Saxonwold “or anywhere else” in 2010 when Tony Gupta insisted on arranging one.

‘We greeted but did not speak to each other’

He will tell Zondo that he attended a cricket match during his first term as finance minister between 2009 and 2014 and that “one of the Gupta brothers” was also present in the presidential suite. “We greeted but did not speak to each other,” his statement reads.

Other incidental meetings occurred at government functions after events like the State of the Nation address by Zuma. “I recall one or more of the Gupta brothers would be present at such events. I would see them, but not interact with them,” he says.

This tallies with testimony by among others Nene, who told the commission that the Guptas were regularly invited to government events, especially during Zuma’s first term.

In his statement, Gordhan also details a meeting with a wealthy Indian businessman in 2010 who showed interest in acquiring a stake in MTN. The meeting was arranged after Tony Gupta allegedly badgered Dondo Mogajane, then Gordhan’s chief of staff to accede to the meeting. Gordhan agreed because the Indian businessman was considered a possible major investor in the country. Gordhan doesn’t recall exact details of the meeting because it did not lead to any actual investment, but says that according to Mogajane, now director general at National Treasury, Ajay Gupta did attend the meeting.

Nzimande: We’re not scrapping e-tolls, and they’re not just a Gauteng issue

Nzimande: We’re not scrapping e-tolls, and they’re not just a Gauteng issue

Nzimande: We're not scrapping e-tolls, and they're not just a Gauteng issue
Nzimande: We’re not scrapping e-tolls, and they’re not just a Gauteng issue

Government is not scrapping e-tolls and the issue of payment will be settled at a national level, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande has told members of Parliament.

The minister was answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday. Democratic Alliance MP Manny de Freitas asked the minister if any decision had been taken on the future of e-tolls.

This followed public statements from Gauteng Premier David Makhura against e-tolls.

“Government has not taken a decision to scrap e-tolls. Government is committed to implementing a road infrastructure in line with the objectives of the NDP (National Development Plan),” Nzimande said.

It’s e-tolls or fuel levies

The minister explained the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was critical to ensure mobility within the economic hub of the country. “Many businesses benefit from using this infrastructure,” he said. Those who derive economic benefit from using the roads should pay for road use, he argued.

Apart from concessions which have introduced to alleviate the pressure on the poor, Nzimande said government was continuing to engage with Gauteng users.

He stressed that non-compliance with the payment system would lead to the deterioration of road networks. Government is aware of those objecting to pay and have heard proposals to rather increase fuel levies in an effort to pay the debt of the construction, he said.

Nzimande said government would continue engage with stakeholders until an amicable solution was found to collect funding for the infrastructure. “It is not a flawed system, the problem is less people are paying that are supposed to be paying,” he said.

READ: E-tolls must be scrapped in Gauteng, insists ANC’s David Makhura
But de Freitas wanted the minister to clarify if there was a difference in opinion on e-tolls among members of the ANC, as last week Gauteng Premier David Makhura made statements that implied government might scrap e-tolls.

News24 quoted Makhura as saying: “Let there be no confusion, they are not part of the future of this province. We will have to work out how to pay for the roads, but not through the e-tolls.”

To this, Nzimande replied that the ANC members do not shy away from debates. As for resolving the payment of the roads, he said: “This matter started as a Gauteng issue, but is now a national issue and must be resolved at that level.”

He said the president tasked him to engage with stakeholders and to finalise the matter on payments as soon as possible.

He said he would engage with the Gauteng Premier and other relevant stakeholders such as the SA National Roads Agency. Government cannot make decisions on what should happen on its own, without engaging with those who have interest in the system, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the African News Agency reported that Makhura had reiterated his stance on e-tolls, saying motorists were overtaxed.

Anti-Gang Unit makes its mark as drugs worth more than R1m, guns confiscated

Anti-Gang Unit makes its mark as drugs worth more than R1m, guns confiscated

The new Anti-Gang Unit has been chipping away at illegal firearms and drugs, with the recent arrest of six people in Philippi and the confiscation of more than R1m worth of drugs, Western Cape police said on Wednesday.

“The Anti-Gang Unit is making headway in disarming criminals in our province,” provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula said.

The six people were arrested on Tuesday when the unit’s members responded to a tip-off about drugs at a residence in Oasis squatter camp.

When they conducted a search operation they discovered two 9mm pistols, a .45 calibre pistol, 70 rounds of ammunition, dagga valued at R1m, heroin with a street value of about R130 000, six cellphones and R11 550 cash, believed to be the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Following up on a tip-off on Wednesday, police arrested a 32-year-old man in Kardow Street, Mitchells Plain. He was allegedly in possession of an unlicensed 9mm pistol and three rounds of ammunition.

At around the same time, the unit’s members searched a home in the same street and arrested a 35-year-old who was allegedly in possession of a .38 revolver, 51 rounds of ammunition and a small quantity of drugs.

Both are to appear in court in Mitchells Plain on Thursday.

“If you are illegally in possession of a firearm, we are going to arrest you,” Jula said in a statement as he announced more arrests in Nyanga and Khayelitsha.

In those suburbs, the Provincial Reaction Team nabbed four people in alleged possession of three unlicensed firearms.

Nyanga has the dubious distinction of having the highest murder rate in the country.

In the search and seizure operation, police arrested one person in Bathwali Street in Unathi, Nyanga, who was in alleged possession of a 9mm pistol without a serial number and five rounds of ammunition.

From there they proceeded to Ngabangaba Street where a man and a woman were arrested for alleged possession of an AK47 assault rifle and 30 rounds of ammunition.

In Site B in Khayelitsha, another person was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Once charged, the four people are expected to appear in court in Athlone and Khayelitsha.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Police Minister Bheki Cele officially launched the Anti-Gang Unit in Hanover Park last Friday.

The unit had already been on the ground after residents begged police through protests and petitions to get rid of gangsterism.

Gift of the Givers volunteer Ameerodien Noordien was killed in the crossfire of a shooting in Hanover Park hours after his return from a mercy mission with the organisation in October. Three other people were injured.

When Cele visited his parents, he pledged to launch the unit there.

During the launch, guests were shown some of the tactics and resources that the unit had at its disposal, including 50 high-powered vehicles, and helicopter support.

red vehicles, and helicopter support.

Gautrain seeks R4bn for new trains

Gautrain seeks R4bn for new trains

South Africa’s high-speed rail network, Gautrain, is seeking R4bn to increase its number of trains by 50% ahead of a potential expansion to other parts of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The Development Bank of Southern Africa is leading the fundraising, a spokeswoman said in an emailed response to questions on Wednesday.

Canada’s Bombardier, CRRC Corp. of China and local firm Egoli Rail are among the bidders to supply the trains, she said.

The government-owned Gautrain is also planning to build a second depot.

The purchases will come ahead of a wider expansion that could see the Gautrain add a further 150km of track to its 80km network.

The service, which was built ahead of the 2010 soccer world cup in South Africa, currently runs from Pretoria to central Johannesburg and would extend as far as Soweto in the southwest under the proposals, which National Treasury is considering.

Richmond municipal manager granted special leave after death threats

Richmond municipal manager granted special leave after death threats

Richmond municipal manager granted special leave after death threats
Richmond municipal manager granted special leave after death threats
Durban – The Richmond municipal manager has been granted special leave following “intense engagements” during a special council meeting on Friday, the municipality said.

Bongiwe Mnikathi applied for special leave because she did not feel safe at work. Last month, Mnikathi opened a case after she received a death threat via a text message a year after she took up the job. In the text message, she was told she would be dead by Monday, October 8 2018.

At the time, KZN police confirmed the matter was being handled by the task team assembled to investigate politically-related matters in the province.

Mnikathi’s predecessor Sibusiso Sithole was gunned down in March last year.

The Richmond Municipality on Friday confirmed council had approved Mnikathi’s request for special leave.

She had just returned at work on Monday this week after the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled that her suspension be lifted. This stems from allegations that she had used the municipality’s credit card to buy alcohol amounting to R20 000, a claim she denies.

For months, Mnikathi and the Richmond Municipality have been involved in a bitter brawl which has led to basic services being disrupted after some employees at the municipality protested against her return.

Services such as the traffic had allegedly grounded to a halt since Monday. Municipal vehicles were used to block several council buildings, including the traffic department.

“To the residents of Richmond the municipal council send sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused during the recent disruption of municipal services,” said the municipality.

Deputy mayor, Khonziwe Mkhize said: “The intervention made by the head of department of Cogta (Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs) and his team gave us hope that we have turned the corner.”

Richmond municipal spokesperson, Sibonelo Bhengu said: “We are in the process of appointing an acting municipal manager who will take up the position immediately,” he said.

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