The elective congress of the DA in the Western Cape will go ahead as planned this weekend. This, after an internal investigation found no merit in the allegations of an assassination plot between the two top contenders for the position of provincial leader.
The Democratic Alliance’s provincial elective congress is expected to be fiercely contested this weekend, with the two main contenders for the leadership position embroiled in allegations of an assassination plot.
Madikizela told Daily Maverick this week that “the contestation will be fierce”.
There have been allegations, first reported in the Sunday Times, of an assassination plot in which Madikizela stands accused of attempting to plan Mnqasela’s murder.
Mnqasela has not responded to requests for comment.
Madikizela has been deputy provincial leader since 2015 under then leader Patricia de Lille. When De Lille resigned from the DA in spectacular fashion in February 2017, Madikizela became acting leader.
In October 2017, he was elected provincial leader for a three-year term.
Speaking to Daily Maverick, Madikizela said: “This culture of smear campaigns and character assassination is a culture that must be rooted out of political parties, especially the Democratic Alliance.”
Addressing the assassination claim directly, he said: “The allegation must be proven. I know that those allegations are nonsensical.
“I said to the party, they must prove those allegations and I can tell you now, if those allegations are true – that I conspired with notorious gangsters to kill a colleague – I don’t deserve to be a member of this party, let alone lead it.
“But if someone who came up with those allegations is lying, he also can’t lead this party… so it’s one of the two.
“I certainly hope the party can get to the bottom of this so we can focus on what is important.”
DA federal chairperson Helen Zille said in a statement on Friday that she and her team found the allegation “totally untrue” after an internal investigation.
Congress officials met on Thursday to discuss the alleged plot, and on Friday morning a decision was taken to proceed with the event.
Zille said the DA had handed the information to police and they were investigating.
According to the statement, the allegation arose after a man, identified only as Zizi, claimed to have overheard snippets of a conversation in a restaurant, which led him to believe that Madikizela was planning to harm Mnqasela.
“However, the federal legal commission has concluded, after a full investigation, that the ‘plot’ meeting referred to by Zizi could not have taken place.
“Zizi’s story, therefore, has no credibility,” Zille’s statement read.
When Mnqasela got wind of the alleged plot, he reported it to the VIP protection unit. The police and the Hawks are yet to comment, despite requests to do so from Daily Maverick.
Meanwhile, Mnqasela and Madikizela were admonished by the party’s federal legal commission, said Zille.
Mnqasela had been reprimanded for failing to adequately assess the information supplied to him before passing it on to the police and premier Alan Winde.
Madikizela was admonished for “openly denying the allegation before it was in the public domain, thus disseminating it further”.
The ANC, the official opposition in the provincial parliament, wrote to Mnqasela calling for a debate on the alleged plot.
“Such allegations are unprecedented in the history of this legislature,” said Cameron Dugmore, leader of the caucus.
“The investigation goes beyond the scope of the DA,” said Dugmore in a letter. “It affects the Western Cape legislature… these allegations threaten stability and good governance in the province.”
Dugmore had wanted the debate to be held on Thursday, 19 November.
Deputy speaker of the legislature, Beverley Schäfer, said she agreed the matter was topical but denied his request for a debate.
“The DA is running for cover, desperate not to air their dirty linen and to keep the ugly and vicious leadership battle from public scrutiny,” Dugmore said. No matter which candidate won or lost, “the impact of this leadership will affect good governance for years to come”.
Alongside Mnqasela and Madikizela, DA women’s network provincial leader Wendy Philander and Pieter van Dalen will contest the provincial leader position.
Results will be released after the elections on Saturday afternoon.
And what are the party’s plans after the congress – focus on healing the rifts or get ready for the elections? “We’ve got to do both; we’ve got to hit the ground running,” Madikizela said.
The party needs to get its house in order ahead of the 2021 local government elections.
In the 2019 national and provincial elections, the party lost two seats in the legislature and in this month’s by-elections, the party lost nine wards, including one to GOOD, Patricia de Lille’s new political home.
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US authorises Moderna as second Covid-19 vaccine
The United States on Friday authorised Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, as the country grapples with a brutal winter surge that is killing over 2 500 people a day.
The US is the first nation to authorise the two-dose regimen, now the second vaccine to be deployed in a Western country after one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
“With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of Covid-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic,” Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Stephen Hahn said.
President Donald Trump – who has frequently taken credit for the fast pace of vaccine development – tweeted: “Congratulations, the Moderna vaccine is now available!”
Joe Biden, who defeated Trump in November’s presidential elections and is due to take office in January, hailed the news as “another milestone” in the fight against the virus.
But he also warned of “the immense challenges ahead, including scaling up manufacturing, distribution, and the monumental task of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Meharry Medical College President James Hildreth, who was part of a panel of experts convened by the FDA to discuss approval matters, said Thursday it was a “remarkable achievement” to have developed and authorized the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines within a year.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine was approved by Britain on 2 December, followed by several other countries including the US last week. Less-vetted inoculations have also been rolled out in China and Russia.
US gives green light to second COVID-19 shot
The U.S. is adding a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal, boosting efforts to beat back the pandemic. The FDA authorized emergency use of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health.
The United States alone has seen more than 310 000 people die from coronavirus infections and is currently witnessing a brutal winter surge, with nearly 115,000 people hospitalized, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Millions of doses will begin shipping out as early as this weekend from cold-storage sites outside Memphis and Louisville, overseen by logistics firm McKesson.
From there they will be delivered to sites around the country via partnerships with FedEx and UPS.
Moderna has several other drugs under development, but has never seen any authorized until this week.
The decade-old Massachusetts-based biotech company received $2.5 billion in federal funding for its efforts and co-developed the vaccine with scientists at the National Institutes of Health.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on cutting-edge mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) technology, and both have been shown to protect about 95 percent of people against Covid-19 compared to a placebo.
Clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people each have also found no serious safety issues.
The most commonly reported side effects were, according to the FDA, “tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever.”
But there have now been a handful of people around the world who developed significant allergic reactions after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, and the FDA has said it will remain vigilant.
Both vaccines come with warnings for people who have histories of allergic reactions to their ingredients.
FDA scientist Peter Marks told reporters that the total number of cases of allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine across the United States was now around five.
He said investigations were underway, and suggested the culprit might be an ingredient called polyethylene glycol, which is in both vaccines.
The FDA will also be on the lookout to see whether both vaccines may in extremely rare cases be linked to Bell’s palsy, a temporary facial paralysis condition, a handful of cases of which emerged during clinical trials.
Both vaccines work by giving human cells the instructions to make a surface protein of the coronavirus, which simulates an infection and trains the immune system for when it encounters the real virus.
They each differ in the formulation of the fatty particles used to deliver the mRNA, allowing Moderna’s vaccine to be kept in long term storage at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), unlike Pfizer’s, which must be stored at -90 degrees Celsius.
Moderna carried out a clinical trial of more than 30 000 people, roughly half of whom were given the product and the other half a placebo, with neither recipients nor their health care providers knowing who was in each group.
It has proposed to “unblind” the whole study and offer placebo recipients the vaccine.
But some experts have raised concerns about that plan, saying scientists will be deprived of valuable data and warning that some people will end up getting the vaccine ahead of others in their priority group.
Eddie Jones wants large England contingent in Lions squad for South Africa
Eddie Jones will be delighted if England supply the bulk of the squad for next year’s British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.
Jones’ men will have a fresh chance to underline their credentials to be involved in the combined side’s Test series against the world champion Springboks when they face France in the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup final at Twickenham on Sunday.
The England coach believes a strong Red Rose contingent in South Africa will allow him to keep building for the 2023 World Cup in France when he takes England on a two-Test tour of Canada and the United States in July.
“We see this Lions tour as an opportunity for us to grow another layer of depth,” said Jones, whose side were overwhelmed 32-12 by the Springboks in last year’s World Cup final in Japan.
“When I say I would like us to have 20 players on the Lions tour, in some ways it is almost selfish because we would like the opportunity to bring younger guys in to create greater depth in the (England) squad,” added the veteran Australian coach.
“But we have got this game on Sunday and then the Six Nations, so there are still plenty of balls to face before you get to that selection headache.”
France are the only team to have beaten Six Nations champions England so far this year, winning 24-17 in Paris in February.
But the French team that takes the field on Sunday will bear little relation to that side, with the starting XV boasting a mere 68 caps between them.
That France are fielding such an inexperienced team is due to a player release agreement with the Top 14 clubs that limits individual player involvement in a rearranged end-of-year schedule created in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
France, however, have won the last two Under-20 World Championships and team manager Raphael Ibanez bristled at suggestions that the side selected by Fabien Galthie meant this latest Anglo-French clash had been devalued.
“We read headlines saying ‘England showdown thrown into a farce’. I can tell you that our players are worthy of the cap they’re earning,” said Ibanez, a former France captain.
Points difference was all that separated the teams in this year’s Six Nations, with former France scrum-half Galthie insisting: “We will be ready on Sunday, I can assure you that we will be ready.”