Flash Briefing: Zuma ordered to pay legal fees in corruption case; SA’s uneducated civil servants; J&J blood clot fears

  • In a victory for taxpayers and a blow for corrupt politicians, South Africa’s second-highest court has rejected an appeal by former president Jacob Zuma to get the state to pay his costs in a corruption case. This is the latest in a string of legal defeats for the former president. Zuma, who ruled the country for almost nine scandal-marred years, stands accused of taking bribes from arms dealers in the 1990s and is due to go on trial on May 17. The Supreme Court of Appeal in a judgment handed down on Tuesday that it would not be handing Zuma, a blank check to pay private lawyers. Zuma, who was ordered to pay the state’s costs, was first charged with graft in 2005 when he was deputy president and reached a deal with the State Attorney whereby the government would pay private lawyers to defend him. President Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma in February 2018, told lawmakers that year that the matter had cost taxpayers R15m ($1m). Zuma committed to repaying the money if he was found to have acted in his personal capacity. The Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest legislative body, is separately deciding whether to jail Zuma for defying its order to testify before a judicial panel that’s probing corruption during his nine-year tenure.
  • Around 35% of senior managers in government do not have the necessary qualifications or credentials for their position, reports MyBroadband.co.za. This was revealed by the Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu in a written response to a parliamentary question posed by the Democratic Alliance. Senior managers in South African government require at least an NQF Level 7 qualification, which is equal to a Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Diploma. According to information captured in government’s Personal and Salary System (PERSAL) as of 15 February 2021, however, there were no records of such qualifications for 3,301 of the 9,477 senior managers in the public service. According to a breakdown of the information provided, 5,447 of government’s senior managers operated at national level. Of these, 1,987 did not have a record of a suitable qualification. The largest number of those were in the police department, which accounted for 228 unqualified senior managers. It was followed closely by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development with 227. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, meanwhile, had 189 senior management employees without a record of the necessary qualifications.
  • Botswana’s health ministry asked the country’s health regulator to probe two deaths of people who had recently taken a Covid-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India on behalf of AstraZeneca Plc, reports Bloomberg. The regulator has been tasked with finding out if the deaths are linked to taking the vaccine, the ministry said in a statement on Monday. And US health officials recommended a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine on concerns about rare and severe blood clotting side effects. A type of brain blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets in six women between the ages of 18 and 48, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday in a joint statement. The J&J vaccine has been rolled out to about 300,000 health workers in South Africa.
  • Capitec – South Africa’s largest bank in terms of customer numbers – is resuming dividend payments after recovering from the severe Covid-19 lockdown. It reported an increase in headline earnings of 18% to just under R4bn for the six months to the end of February. Capitec has plans to continue scaling up by expanding its reach in business banking. For more on that story, listen to the interview with Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie, on BizNews Radio where you’ll also find all our other interviews with business leaders.

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