18 May, 2004

Turbulent spirits

Homicide detectives have identified a suspect they believe shot a street child in Cape Town's city centre after his car had been broken into. Now they are protecting street children who fear for their lives because they saw what happened - including their key witness, an 11-year-old boy (IOL 2004-05-18).

The turbulent spirits of the long-dead czars and the Nordic gods must have smiled at the recent goings-on in the Pretoria high court, the battleground for alcoholic spirit coolers. Court papers tell a fascinating story of how Smirnoff Ice was withdrawn from the market to be replaced by Smirnoff Spin. However, nine days before the launch of Smirnoff Spin - following a three-month advertising campaign, training workshops for sales staff, presentations and demonstrations, all at a cost of R10 million - the competing brand Nordic was launched (Business Report 2004-05-18).

The Health Department has lost close to half a million in South African courts in cases against Cuban doctors fighting to keep their jobs (Witness 2004-05-18).

The Ark, a shelter for homeless people in Durban, and its residents lost an application for leave to appeal against an eviction order on Monday at the Pietermaritzburg High Court (Witness 2004-05-18).

A 32-year-old Johannesburg man was found guilty on Monday of loading a virus on to the computers of Edgars, which the company claims cost them R20 million and affected up to 700 stores. Because the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act governing what employees may legally do with company computers is not yet in force, Berend Howard of Morningside Manor was charged with malicious damage to Edcon property (Witness 2004-05-18).

South Africa remains last in a survey of 22 countries able to conduct electronic government operations, but this should be seen in the correct context (Mail & Guardian 2004-05-17).

A 13-year-old boy has turned down N5.7 million as compensation for his eye plucked out by ritualists, although an Upper Sharia Court in Bauchi is still trying to persuade the victim to take the money. An official of the court said that the victim, Isa Yayaji, was insisting that the ritualist should sacrifice an eye for an eye (AllAfrica 2004-05-13).

Greenpeace went on trial in the United States for boarding a freighter carrying illegally harvested Amazon mahogany. It is accused of breaking a law against "sailor mongering" last used 114 years ago. In the first US criminal prosecution for civil disobedience of an advocacy group rather than its individual members, the environmental watchdog faces probation and fines if convicted of a crime over the 2002 protest off Miami (SMH 2004-05-18).

European Central Bank governing council member Guy Quaden yesterday played down fears that small and medium firms would suffer from new rules on bank capital. The Basel 2 rules will revamp the way banks manage risk, but some analysts have said they could cause a reduction in lending to smaller firms, as these were riskier bets than large corporations (Business Report 2004-05-18).

17 May, 2004

Ring of fire

Erinvale, a Prestigious Cape golf estate has been slapped on the wrist by a court for charging property owners exorbitant late building penalties in a case that could curb similar clauses of other developments (Sunday Times 2004-05-16).

A former TV presenter is being sued by his former fiancée for R764 000 - because he called off their engagement (Sunday Times 2004-05-16).

Within a month the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) and Monhla Hlahla, its chief executive, are likely to know when they will have to go to the labour court to defend the dismissal of one of airports operator's top executives. Paul O'Sullivan, who was fired as Acsa's group executive for aviation security last year, apparently because of "irreconcilable differences", is fighting to get his job back. He will be suing the company and Hlahla for R20 million in damages for defamation. This action dates back to the daring R125 million heist at Johannesburg International Airport. The case goes to court on March 11 next year (Business Report 2004-05-17).

Three Japanese men were arrested at Cape Town International Airport on Friday with 37 endangered lizards strapped to their bodies under their clothing. This is the latest in a series of poaching incidents by foreigners in what conservation officials have described as "a total onslaught" on endangered Western Cape reptiles and insects, which fetch high prices on collectors' markets overseas (Cape Times 2004-05-17).

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has struck a deal with Equatorial Guinea to extradite the 70 suspected mercenaries held in Harare to the oil-rich country in exchange for fuel worth US1.2-billion (Sunday Times 2004-05-16).

New Zealand
Justice Minister Phil Goff said yesterday that the Government would introduce a bill in June or July creating two exceptions to the rule known as double jeopardy, which prevents the state prosecuting someone already acquitted of the offence alleged (New Zealand Herald 2004-05-17).

The president of the Iraqi Governing Council was killed early Monday in a huge explosion set off by a suicide bomber outside the headquarters of the U.S.-led occupation authority here (Washington Post 2004-05-17).

The EU would lift sanctions against the US once it fully repealed a contentious tax law (Business Report 2004-05-13).

Irish Premier Bertie Ahern has been touring EU capitals since early May to try to reach consensus on outstanding wrangles in the charter, seen as vital for the smooth running of the bloc which expanded on May 1 to 25 members from 15 (IOL 2004-05-16).

United States
Six of the defendants in the Abu Ghraib abuse case once all bunked together in a tent in Baghdad. But as the most important military prosecutions since Vietnam unfold, each soldier is struggling alone to explain away seemingly irrefutable evidence captured in frame after frame of disturbing images, and they are pointing fingers at one another, minimizing their roles and blaming the government (New York Times 2004-05-16).