The Eyewitness News Breakfast Brief

Eyewitness News previews a selection of the news that you will find on the website today.

Picture: Stephanie Albert/Pixabay

On this morning, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s maiden Budget Speech today will be watched for what he says about key state-owned enterprises that are battling for viability. Eskom’s turnaround is under way but its debt burden is still enormous, at nearly 400 billion rand. For Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations, the financial health of passenger rail agency, Prasa, the Post Office and the Land Bank is of great concern. These entities provide the means for cheaper transport, for people to get social grants and support for farmers.

Although Finance Minister Godongwana is under pressure to plot an exit route for South Africa out of the economic devastation which has crippled growth, market commentators and economists warn he may be unable to do that just yet. However, there is broad consensus that this year's Budget Speech will contain some much-needed good news due to an increase in revenue collection. Some economists say calculations show that the figure could be about ninety billion rand above Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement projections.

Meanwhile, it's emerged the South African Police Service underspent their budget by four billion rand last year - that's the amount the National Prosecuting Authority gets for its entire annual budget. While the NPA has received some financial support, its head, Shamila Batohi, has also pointed to the need for the Hawks to be properly resourced, especially for complex corruption cases. There is a tsunami of criminal referrals to the NPA and the Hawks arising from investigations by the Special Investigating Unit and the Zondo state capture inquiry, while private security costs are rising - along with crime levels. One question to be answered by Finance Minister Godongwana's budget today is whether more money will be allocated to fighting crime and corruption.

While suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and his allies have told journalists his charges have been significantly reduced, as a sign of confidence that they are likely to fall away, the NPA says this is not correct. NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga says there have been no amendments to the indictment served on Magashule and his co-accused. The embattled politician and 15 others, including 5 companies, are facing corruption charges stemming from a 2014 asbestos contract in the Free State. He and four others are trying to get their charges quashed.

Former State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has dismissed claims her department did not issue intelligence reports prior to last year's failed insurrection. Dlodlo's testified at the human rights commission's hearing investigating the unrest that tore through Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal last July. The country's security and intelligence apparatus were caught sleeping when the unrest exploded. Police have claimed no intelligence reports were received, saying they had to rely on social media posts about the violence.

Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille says the fire at Parliament last month caused structural damage to the National Assembly building, but she says it is not in danger of collapsing at this point. A preliminary assessment by the Coega Development Corporation has been finalised. The firm was appointed by De Lille's department to independently assess the extent of the fire damage and come up with cost and time estimates to restore both the National Assembly and the Old Assembly chamber, which was also gutted by the blaze.

Parliament has ignored Busisiwe Mkhwebane's plea to have the inquiry into her conduct put on hold even before she files a rescission application. Mkhwebane has told Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula of her intention to apply to the Constitutional Court for a rescission application on its recent judgment which cleared the way for Parliament to hold its inquiry. The committee is moving ahead with its inquiry.

The Liliesleaf board of trustees in Rivonia has confirmed the iconic institution is broke but it says it's not to blame for the blockage of government funding as suggested by CEO Nicholas Wolpe. The Arts and Culture Department has previously said it's committed to funding the heritage site but there needs to be accountability for over 8 million rand allocated to the museum in 2015. The board says it handed the September 2021 forensic report to Minister Nathi Mthethwa but concerned staff, who have not been paid their salaries, and Wolpe, claim this is not so.

Limpho Hani says all she wants is justice for her husband’s death. Yesterday, Chris Hani's assassin Janus Walusz challenged a decision to deny parole - and the Constitutional Court has reserved judgment. He's been serving a life sentence for killing the SACP leader in 1993.

The families of Tshegofatso Pule and Ntuthuko Shoba will have now have to wait as the Johannesburg High Court considers the evidence presented. The parties made closing arguments yesterday in the Johannesburg High Court. Shoba is the accused mastermind behind his girlfriend, Pule’s murder. She was found shot and hanging from a tree in Durban Deep in 2020. Pule’s family representative, Tumisang Katake, has expressed relief that the trial is almost over. They are now looking forward to judgment, which has been reserved, and possible sentencing.

Residents of the Kanana informal settlement in Tembisa are calling for Joburg City Power to provide electricity in the community. City Power, police, and JMPD officers took part in a blitz operation in the area yesterday to remove illegal connections. This is part of the city's revenue enhancement programme meant to recover millions in lost revenue. The utility says it is trying to clamp down on people who steal power from the grid, as it struggles to meet demand.

Western Cape Health bosses have stressed the importance of also rolling out state-of-the-art technologies in the public healthcare sector. Officials have gathered at Tygerberg Hospital yesterday, to celebrate the state facility's milestone of being the first in the country to perform robotic surgery. Groote Schuur Hospital is the other health facility that will also utilise the Da Vinci robot in its surgical procedures.

Another 2,334 tests have come back positive for COVID-19 over the past 24-hour reporting cycle. It's a positivity rate of 7.3 percent. One death was also confirmed over that same timeframe but the Health Department says its ongoing audit has revealed 63 previously unreported fatalities as well. These take our national death toll to 98,868. On the vaccine front, just over 31 million jabs have been administered in the country.

In international news, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced tough new sanctions on Russia for "beginning" an invasion of Ukraine but said there was still time to avoid war, even as Vladimir Putin signaled plans to send troops beyond Russia's borders.

A US jury found three white men guilty of federal hate crimes on Tuesday for the murder of a Black man who was shot dead while jogging in their Georgia neighbourhood two years ago.

Phil Mickelson apologised Tuesday for remarks about the US PGA Tour and Saudi backers of a proposed rival tour, saying he will "desperately need some time away" from golf. The 51-year-old left-hander, winner of six major titles and the reigning PGA Championship titleholder, also lost long-time sponsor KPMG after issuing a lengthy apology on Twitter.