The year that was 2016
With vicious wars among law enforcement agencies, water scandals and health tragedies, this year hasn’t been an easy ride
The wars in South Africa’s law enforcement agencies have given Generations, Muvhango and Isibaya a run for their money this year.
It was all there: public spats, attempted murders, treason, back-stabbing and conspiracies.
The star cast included Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Hawks head Mthandazo Ntlemeza, SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane and National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams.
In supporting roles were former Hawks boss Anwa Dramat, Independent Police Investigative Directorate head Robert McBride, acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, his predecessor Riah Phiyega, and ex-Gauteng Hawks boss Shadrack Sibiya, alongside fired Sars officials, Sibiya’s replacement Prince Mokotedi, rogue intelligence agents and a few journalists too.
The year started with a massive hangover from the saga involving the rendition of five Zimbabweans, which cost Dramat and Sibiya their jobs and earned McBride a 20-month suspension. They were all criminally charged in the beginning of the year, thanks to investigations pursued by Ntlemeza. Ntlemeza had us glued to our TVs this year. His henchman, Nyameka Xaba, who leads the Hawks’ unit for crimes against the state, was the hatchet man responsible for investigating Gordhan, McBride, Sibiya and the fired Sars officials. He went as far as harassing journalists in their newsrooms, and allegedly kidnapping a Sars official who was in possession of a document that scuppered the case against Gordhan.
Abrahams has been one of the top villains of this year’s soapie. After it became known that the Hawks were investigating Gordhan a week before he delivered his budget speech in February, Abrahams charged him with fraud shortly before he delivered his medium-term budget, sending the currency and markets into yet another tailspin.
Abrahams, who went to Luthuli House for a meeting a day before his announcement to “talk about #FeesMustFall protests”, then dramatically withdrew the charges, saying the Hawks messed up.
Depending on which side of the ANC divide you are on, Gordhan is the good guy who saved the country from a downgrade and stopped Treasury from being captured.
The Hawks have vowed to charge Gordhan, who remains under investigation, before Christmas over his alleged involvement with the Sars spy unit. City Press has learnt that they maintain this position, so let’s see what happens this week. Whether Abrahams has the guts for it this time round remains to be seen.
McBride would be the brooding-but-flawed action hero, going after Phahlane who may have been living above his means. To get his job back, he took Nhleko on in the Constitutional Court and won. But now he has been charged in a bizarre case involving Mokotedi – who moonlights as a pastor – who has accused him and forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan of all sorts of things – from attempted murder to treason.
This is yet another case to follow next year, along with that of Phiyega who is fighting the Marikana Commission’s report. She also plans to take on the board of inquiry headed by Judge Neels Claassen, who recommended that she be fired.
We wish this was fiction, but it’s truly a reality series that reflects the situation in our law enforcement agencies. We predict it will only get worse next year.
– Abram Mashego
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane will soon know her fate as the Special Investigating Unit concludes its investigation into the billions of rands in water contracts given to politically connected businesspeople in Limpopo.
Watergate is a series of City Press exposés that began with how a politically connected company, LTE Consulting, irregularly benefited from R5 billion in water projects in the province – without going to tender.
In July, City Press reported that Mokonyane personally intervened and delayed the launch of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to secure a slice of the R26 billion project for LTE and politicians in Maseru.
Water scientists and experts warned the delays could result in serious water shortages in Gauteng should there be a drought between 2019 and 2025.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela also grilled Mokonyane on her contribution to the delays, and referred some of the issues emanating from that meeting to the Auditor-General for further scrutiny.
City Press understands that the Auditor-General is now conducting a performance audit of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which will be released next year.
Two months ago, Mokonyane also appointed an internal team to probe “tender irregularities” and it is expected to wrap up their work next year.
– Sipho Masondo
HEALTH The year 2016 was a mixed bag for South Africa’s health.
The good: In July, local researchers received the green light to proceed with a large-scale HIV vaccine trial, the largest in the country’s history, which was announced at the International Aids Conference held in Durban in July.
The HVTN 702 trial, launched in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban last month, aims to determine if the HIV vaccine is safe, tolerable and effective in preventing infection among South African adults.
The vaccine is the modified version of a vaccine tested in Thailand in 2009 that showed the vaccine was safe and reduced HIV infection by 31.2%.
Following the success of the Thai trial, South Africa launched two trials aimed at testing whether South Africans would show the same immune response as the Thais. The response was similar and, in some cases, much better.
However, results from the current trial are expected only in 2020, which means we have to wait a few years to find out whether the vaccine works.
The hopeful: Public hearings into what is driving up the costs of private healthcare finally began in February, almost two years after the Competition Commission announced its intention to hold an inquiry into the health market pricing systems. We heard from patients who pay fortunes for medical cover, but when the time comes for medical schemes to deliver, they either paid less, rejected the claims or paid nothing at all because they had no money. Schemes also told their side of the story, blaming doctors who sometimes charge more than 300% of the scheme rates. Doctors hit back, blaming schemes for developing tariff fees that barely covered their costs. The hearings are still to be concluded as some sectors have not been covered or invited to make presentations. The bad: In September, Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu revealed that 36 psychiatric patients had died in the care of NGOs in which they were placed after the department cut its contract with Life Esidimeni. That number has since increased to 39, with another patient dying shortly after being admitted to Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria last week. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi ordered an investigation by Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, who said that while his probe was complete, he was still going through all the reports and could only deliver a complete report to Motsoaledi early next year. Makgoba’s report is expected to reveal the conditions under which the patients died and recommend minimum health standards for psychiatric patients.