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Monday, January 22 2018 @ 11:56 am SAST

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Russian nuclear deal places massive liability on South Africans

Cape Town - A nuclear agreement with Russia has far-reaching consequences for the budget the Western Cape High Court heard on Friday, as it places all liability for a nuclear accident on South Africa, while indemnifying Russia completely.

David Unterhalter, SC, appearing for Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute, who are challenging government’s nuclear procurement process in court, said liability for nuclear accidents fell on South Africa even if it occurred outside the country.

If the Russian company building the proposed eight new nuclear power stations had an accident while transporting nuclear material from Vladivostok to Qatar, for instance, causing extensive damage, the Russian inter-governmental agreement made South Africa liable for what could be “massive” costs, GroundUp reported.

“South Africa bears the burden under the indemnity clause. A country making this kind of offer would have to make very special provision for this in its budget,” Unterhalter said.

Such liability was not even consistent with the Vienna Convention on liability for nuclear damage, he said.

“So we have gone very far in seeming to court Russia and to say, ‘We will pay and we will indemnify’,” Unterhalter said.

The court is not being asked to decide on the merits of the Russian nuclear agreement, as this would be beyond its powers. However, the contents are relevant as the court is being asked to decide whether an international agreement of this nature should first have been tabled in Parliament for approval, particularly because of the massive financial implications.

The litigants argue that tabling the agreement without Parliamentary approval was unlawful as it did not comply with the Constitution and the agreement should be set aside.

Counsel for Minister of Energy Tina Joematt-Pettersson, who tabled the Russian agreement, argued that it did not need to come before Parliament, nor was there a need to allow the public to make representations. This was because it fitted into the category of agreements between countries that dealt with “technical, administrative or executive” matters, which did not have extra-budgetary consequences.

Marius Oosthuizen, SC, for the government, argued that the minister’s tabling of it under this category therefore did not contradict constitutional requirements.

One of the two presiding judges, ED Baartman, commented that a government guideline indicated that international agreements which dealt with minor, everyday issues did not need Parliamentary approval.

“Are you saying the Russian agreement is a minor, everyday issue?” she asked.

Oosthuizen replied that the Russian agreement would not constitute something that was high on the South African agenda as it was about co-operation between governments on an executive level.

The litigants are also asking the court to set aside the minister’s “determinations”, made under the Electricity Regulation Act, that South Africa needed 9600MW of new nuclear power.

One was made in 2013, where the Department of Energy was the body that would buy the nuclear power, and the other in 2016 that made Eskom the procurer.

“Both are infected with administrative error and neither should survive,” Unterhalter said.

The court heard submissions on whether the minister’s decisions were administrative in nature – which meant they could be reviewed and set aside – or whether they were policy decisions, which could not be.

One of the tests in deciding whether a decision was administrative was whether it had consequences and whether it affected anyone.

Oosthuizen argued the decision to determine that South Africa needed 9600MW of nuclear power had not affected anyone’s rights, but had merely imposed an obligation on the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) which had the statutory duty to issue electricity-generating licences.

Judge LJ Bozalek said, “You can’t just look at this through the prism of Nersa’s rights. You have to look at the rights of people.”

Oosthuizen replied, “Yes. But that decision did not affect my electricity bill by one cent.”

Baartman said, “Not yet.”

The case has ended. No date was set for judgment.
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George Trails signage vandalism and theft

It is with both shock and sadness that we have learned that about 70% of the trail signage (posts, route markers and sponsor’s advertising boards) around the GR Exp Saasveld Trail System, located between the Garden Route Dam and NMMU Campus have been maliciously damaged and stolen amounting to tens of thousands of Rands worth of damage.

James Krause with some of the broken trail signage and an orange glove picked up on the scene

As partners in the George Trails Project, the Green Sport Foundation, MTO Forestry and George Municipality strongly condemn these actions in our natural surroundings and a case of theft and vandalism has been opened with the George SAPS.

After more than two years of planning and negotiations the Green Sport Foundation non-profit company secured contracts with the George Municipality and MTO Forestry as landowners in the middle of 2016, to mark, manage, maintain, permit and market a multi-use trail network (for hiking, running and mountain biking) under George Trails as a sports tourism project to promote community wellness, environmental education, tourism, job creation and to establish a well-marked and safe trail network around George. Green Sport also provides millions of Rands worth of public liability cover through its affiliation with AMARider (African Mountain Biking Association).

No other party have previously successfully negotiated or secured trail management agreements with the local landowners and thus there are no rights to previously (and often illegally) constructed trails and sign boards on the landowner’s property by any other party, other than that negotiated by Green Sport. The parties advocates responsible trail use, trail construction and land management and this is part of the reason they entered into the agreements to make a positive difference to trail sports and nature-based recreational activities around the City of George.

After assessing the damage we can confirm that a total of 25 wooden sign posts have been removed and stolen. Furthermore, a variety of 66 sign boards that included route markers, emergency detail and sponsors advertising have been removed or damaged. The remaining boards have been taken down for now to avoid further damage/loss and to avoid people getting lost by following incomplete marked routes due to the damage. In the meantime, the GPX files of the routes can be downloaded for use on GPS devices from the George Trails website at www.georgetrails.org.za in order to still navigate the routes.

The vandals not only caused damage to property but also put the lives of people in danger by the damage and removal of the emergency numbers and codes linked to the Eden Emergency Centre.

We kindly request members of the public to come forward with any information that might lead to the arrest and prosecution of the culprits by contacting Detective Sweli on 078 274 1687, sending an email to info@georgetrail.org.za or inboxing the George Trails Facebook Page. None of the 25 x 2.3m sign posts that were removed were found in the vicinity of where they were removed so it is assumed that it was a coordinated effort and that it was loaded onto a vehicle so chances are that users spotted the vehicle in the plantation. It will also help the case if we can get information on when last users saw the signs up in order to narrow down the search.

(This is a joint press release between the Green Sport Foundation, MTO Forestry and the George Municipality)
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Pretoria train crash injured now number over 200

Pretoria – The final figure of the number of people injured when two passenger trains heading in opposite directions collided head-on at the Rosslyn station during peak hour on Monday evening is currently at 216, Metrorail said on Tuesday.

Metrorail spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng said 177 commuters were walk-ins, while 38 of the total number were treated for minor to moderate injuries.

One commuter is in a serious, but not critical, condition.

The driver of one of the trains is also in a critical condition.

The injured commuters were taken to Kgabo Clinic, Odi Hospital, Dr George Mukhari Hospital, Kalafong Hospital, Tshwane District Hospital and Akasia Hospital.

Mofokeng said the train service for Ga-Rankuwa commuters has been restored.

De Wildt trains are using a single line between Rosslyn and De Wildt stations.

Train delays of approximately 40 minutes can be expected in that corridor.

"A board of inquiry will be instituted to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the accident and circumstances around it in order to prevent future occurrences," Mofokeng said.
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Smile for the day!

Fruit Store Joke
Smile for the day!

An older man comes into a small fruit store and sees a new delivery of fresh fruit.

“Give me two pounds of kiwis and wrap every kiwi up in a separate piece of paper, please,” he says to the saleswoman. She does.

“And three pounds of potatoes, please, and wrap up every one in a separate piece of paper, too.” She does it again. “And what is that there,” he asks pointing out a basket in the corner.

“Cherry tomatoes,” says the saleswoman, “but they are not for sale!”