South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Tuesday 23 June

Never miss a beat when it comes to the latest news in South Africa, be sure to review the day’s major headlines on Tuesday 23 June.

As former President Jacob Zuma faces his long-awaited day in court on charges of fraud and corruption, disgruntled taxi associations vow to continue protest action in Gauteng following unsuccessful engagements with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.


Jacob Zuma: Pre-trial proceedings

Despite a last-ditch effort to postpone the long-awaited corruption trial, former President Zuma will appear before KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg as pre-trial proceedings get underway. After a protracted period of legal wrangling, which saw court cases dismissed and postponed over the course of the last decade, Zuma will finally have his day in court.

Zuma, along with French arms manufacturer Thales, stands accused of corruption, fraud and racketeering in connection with the infamous arms deal. Zuma, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, has been fighting charges since 2005. It’s further alleged that Zuma — and his cohorts, many of whom have already served jail time for their role in the arms deal — profited from lucrative bribes and procurement irregularities.

Public Works Minister, Patricia de Lille, who originally acted as one of the primary whistleblowers before Parliament, has agreed to testify against the former president.

Pre-lockdown unemployment figures

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) will today release the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter in 2020. While the unemployment figures are set to rise above 29.1%, the data represented concerns pre-lockdown statistics. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently warned that the economic fallout resulting from the prolonged lockdown would certainly see unemployment figures soar.

Projections presented by the National Treasury show that the unemployment rate may rocket to 50% as a result of lockdown’s disastrous economic impact.

On Monday, Stats SA revealed that its head office — which was due to welcome members of the media covering the findings of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey — would be remain closed after a staffer tested positive for the coronavirus.  

Taxi drivers vow to continue protests

Disgruntled taxi drivers who took to the streets of Gauteng in protest against government’s ‘insufficient’ financial assistance have vowed to continue striking until minister Mbalula’s reviews the current relief offer. On Monday, thousands of commuters were left stranded due to the taxi strike, with blockades halting traffic in Tshwane and reports of intimidation towards motorists and bus passengers forcing police to intervene.

Police officers and National Defence Force (SANDF) personal dispersed crowds of striking taxi drivers with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Mbalula, who visited the scene in an attempt to ease frustrations, was forced to retreat when striking drivers became overly aggressive and threatening. Protesters, who have rejected government’s offer of a once-off R1.1 billion relief package, say that they will continue to shutdown taxi services in the area.

Mbalula condemned the violence and encouraged law enforcement agencies to uphold order and protect the rights of other road users.

Mboweni adds final touches to emergency budget

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is busy putting the finishing touches on an ‘emergency budget’ which is due to be tabled before Parliament on Wednesday. In addition to dealing with the strain of pre-lockdown predicaments — including record levels of unemployment, ratings downgrades, and sluggish economic growth — Mboweni will now need to compete with a host of new coronavirus-related challenges.

With analysts predicting an economic decline of between 6 and 12%, Mboweni is likely to announce radical economic reforms which include decreasing the burgeoning public wage bill and moving towards free market ideals. This, however, is likely to be met with disdain by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).


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