South African universities losing their credibility

SOUTH AFRICA (Times Live) – The credibility of higher education at South Africa’s top institutions is on a decline while other BRICS countries like China‚ India and Russia are improving their standards.

The Times Higher Education Emerging Economies University Rankings 2018 comprises a total of 378 universities from 42 countries‚ across four continents. The scores are calculated from judging: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume‚ income and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff‚ students and research); and Industry Income (knowledge transfer). South Africa has eight universities ranked‚ the same as last year. However its leading institution‚ the University of Cape Town‚ drops five positions to rank number nine.

The University of the Witwatersrand has dropped to 12th‚ from 8th the year before.

Others have made progress‚ but off a very low base. The University of Johannesburg‚ for example‚ climbs 49 places to rank joint 92nd.

China dominates the ranking‚ with the nation claiming one in every six positions in 2018. Sixty-three Chinese institutions are represented in the ranking – up from 52 in the previous year – making mainland China home to the highest concentration of leading universities in the emerging economies nations‚ the authors state.

China also dominates the 2018 ranking’s elite Top 10‚ claiming seven spots. For the fifth consecutive year‚ Peking University leads the table‚ with Tsinghua University ranked at number two. The two institutions also achieved their highest ever ranking in the THE World University Rankings 2018 – both featuring in its global Top 30.

Phil Baty‚ editorial director of the THE Global Rankings‚ said: “China has become a higher education superpower – it’s now a legitimate global competitor alongside traditional Anglo-American heavyweights. It has pioneered the higher education excellence model other emerging economies now strive to emulate – through its sustained heavy investment in its leading institutions‚ focus on attracting the very best global academics‚ nurturing of international partnerships and development of international publications. With a strengthening international outlook‚ it’s likely we’ll see China’s universities continue to ascend in the global rankings.”

Taiwan remains second most represented in the ranking’s Top 200‚ claiming 18 positions in that group and 31 overall – led by the National Taiwan University‚ which sticks at number 10. However the majority of its institutions experienced a decline. India remains the second most represented nation overall‚ but substantially increases its representation with 42 institutions – up from 27 last year. It is topped by the Indian Institute of Science at number 13 (up from 14). But while several institutions perform strongly and rise up the rankings‚ the majority of its previously ranked institutions have fallen places – and both the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi plummet from the Top 50.

Several Russian universities see significant progress on the 2018 ranking. The country is the fifth most represented in the table‚ with 27 institutions ranked – up from 24 in the previous year‚ and led by Lomonosov Moscow State University‚ which retains its position at number three.

Meanwhile a trend of decline cuts across Latin American‚ ASEAN and Eastern European countries‚ despite many increasing their overall representation.

Brazil increases its presence and retains its status as the third most represented nation‚ however‚ nearly all of its ranked institutions drop positions‚ largely due to economic and political turmoil in the country. Its flagship institution‚ the University of Sao Paulo‚ ranks 14th – its lowest-ever position. Thailand (10 institutions‚ up from nine)‚ Malaysia (nine‚ up from seven) and Indonesia (four‚ up from two) also increase their overall presence‚ however‚ the majority of their institutions have declined since last year.

Acting THE Rankings Editor‚ Ellie Bothwell‚ said: “Improving higher education is imperative to the future prosperity and stability of many emerging economies – a point increasingly recognised in national development agendas. However‚ we see from this year’s ranking that universities in emerging economies will have to demonstrate immense drive to grow their global ambitions.”

“No institution can afford to stand still or remain inward looking. Global – and regional – competition is intensifying and every university will have to be more resourceful‚ innovative and internationally oriented than ever to progress and reach their potential.”


South Africa tourism growth hindered by coal mining

SOUTH AFRICA (aljazeera) – Coal mining companies want to expand their mines, threatening the pristine nature that brings visitors to South Africa every year.

One of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations – South Africa – is hosting Africa’s biggest travel trade show this week.

But the growth of the tourism sector is often hindered by another key industry – mining.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb reports from Matubatuba, South Africa.


French energy giant back to drill, expand its outlets in South Africa

CAPE TOWN (Biz News) — It’s doubtful that so many new green economic shoots would be budding had Cyril Ramaphosa not scraped in at the ANC’s national elective conference in December last year. This story outlines the portents of one major new green shoot in the form of Total SA’s new plans to boost oil exploration and open more fuel stations on the back of a rejuvenated energy supply policy. Under the Zuptoids, drilling for liquified natural gas and plugging solar energy into the national grid had all but come to a complete standstill, helping wither the local economy. While not exactly booming, the country’s economic prospects are definitely their brightest in a decade as investors and traders see the State-capture-skewed environment being swept away. Projects abandoned four years ago like the deep-water gas well on the East Coast, albeit not due to direct government malfeasance or interference, are now back on track to resume within a year. The hope is that all pending legislation, especially that potentially curbing offshore exploration, will be approached with a far stronger eye to encouraging investment. Whatever the other negative factors, the new political environment is facilitating a far more buoyant, albeit cautious approach by investors. – Chris Bateman

By Paul Burkhardt

(Bloomberg) – French energy giant Total SA plans to boost oil exploration and open more fuel stations in Africa’s most industrialised country.

Total pumped a record amount of oil and gas in the first quarter and expects output growth to exceed its 6 percent target this year thanks to acquisitions and new projects from the Arctic to West Africa. In South Africa, the company plans to expand its network of more than 500 fuel stations and finish a deepwater exploration well started in 2014.

“In retail, we clearly want to grow and to grow by 200 to 300 service stations in the coming few years,” Pierre-Yves Sachet, managing director and chief executive officer for Total South Africa, said Thursday in an interview at his office in Johannesburg. “The intensity of our footprint is not exactly the one we would like to have yet.”

Total, which is already due to open 20 new retail outlets this year, is considering partnerships to increase that number. It faces competition from South Africa’s Sasol Ltd., which is also looking to expand its fuel-station network in a country that currently has about 4,600 outlets.

Total is also interested in supplying liquefied natural gas and adding solar projects as part of two government programs that faced delays under former South African President Jacob Zuma. While there hasn’t yet been a marked change in demand and investment under Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma in February, there is a difference in the business community, according to Sachet.

“There’s more confidence in the atmosphere, this is very clear,” said Sachet, who sees growth in the company’s sales of fuel and lubricants to mining companies.

Total, which owns 36 percent of the 108,000-barrel-a-day Natref refinery in a joint venture with Sasol, expects to resume drilling on South Africa’s first deepwater well by the end of this year or first quarter 2019, said Sachet. It was forced to suspend operations in 2014 because of strong currents.

The results will be watched by fellow majors Exxon Mobil Corp. and Eni SpA, which also have offshore stakes in South Africa. Royal Dutch Shell Plc relinquished a license last year.

Petroleum Agency South Africa, the industry regulator, has blamed lower oil prices and uncertainty about pending legislation, including the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, for curbing investment in exploration.

Total in October also acquired a stake in blocks off Namibia and in South Africa’s Orange Basin.


Giraffe Kills South African Filmmaker at Wildlife Facility

JOHANNESBURG (time.com) — A giraffe has killed a South African filmmaker who was on assignment at a wildlife facility northwest of Johannesburg.

Filming agency CallaCrew says Carlos Carvalho was filming a feature on Wednesday at the Glen Afric farm in Broederstroom when he “had a fatal run-in with a giraffe on set.”

The agency says Carvalho was flown to a Johannesburg hospital and died there of injuries that night.

South African media say Carvalho was near the giraffe when it swung its neck and knocked him over.

The Glen Afric website promises tourists that “you can get up close and personal to a number of our resident wildlife.”

The British television series “Wild at Heart” was filmed at Glen Afric, which invites visitors to tour the area where filming occurred.


Captive-bred lions killed on South African farm for bones

JOHANNESBURG (washingtonpost.com) — The killing of dozens of lions on a South African farm last week has led to increased scrutiny of the country’s policy allowing the annual export of 800 skeletons of captive-bred lions to meet demand in Asia for bones.

The SPCA animal protection group in Bloemfontein is preparing to file a formal complaint alleging abuse by the farm’s owner and foreman, said Reinet Meyer, a senior inspector for the group. She said a total of 54 lions were killed at the farm over two days.

Meyer also said she saw two lions that had been kept in transport crates for several days, and described the conditions in which the lions were kept as “totally unacceptable.”

The killing of captive-bred lions is not illegal in South Africa if permits are in order. Conservationists, however, say enforcement of regulations governing the lion bone trade is weak and that the legal market could threaten Africa’s wild lions by spurring demand for skeletons.

Authorities in Free State province are investigating allegations of misconduct on the farm where the lions were killed.

“All permits relating to this matter have been suspended until further notice,” Dirk Hagen, a provincial official, said in a text message to The Associated Press.

African lion bones started to become a substitute for tiger bones in traditional medicine in China and Southeast Asia after tiger populations dwindled and stronger conservation measures were put in place to protect them.

Legal exports of South African lion skeletons increased from about 50 skeletons in 2008 to nearly 600 several years later, and South Africa last year announced an export quota of 800 captive-bred lion skeletons.

There are several thousand wild lions and roughly 8,000 captive-bred lions in South Africa, according to Andrew Venter, executive producer of “Blood Lions,” a documentary that explores lion breeding in the country.

Many captive-bred lions are killed by paying clients in a practice described by critics as “canned hunting.”

Bathopele Mine - Underground - ABS Training - Sydney Mabale (miner) explains the safety marking system to Phillemon Molemi (LHD Operator) Kenneth Xhantini (Sweeper), Petrick Semalkhe (LHD Operator) and Annanias (LHD Operator) at Section 6, West Central

South Africa miners reach silicosis settlement

SOUTH AFRICA (ft.com) – South African miners including Anglo American agreed to pay $400m to settle a class action launched by former miners who contracted serious lung diseases working in the country’s gold shafts.

Mining companies and lawyers for the mineworkers said on Thursday that the settlement would give “meaningful compensation” to sufferers of silicosis and pulmonary tuberculosis who worked in South Africa’s gold mines, some of the deepest in the world, from the 1960s onward.

“A compromise settlement is far preferable for all concerned than an inevitably lengthy and expensive litigation process would be,” they added.

A South African court must still approve the settlement, which is the result of three years of negotiations and the first class-action lawsuit of its kind in the country’s history.

A third of all the gold ever mined has come from South African mine-shafts, which, for decades under colonialism and apartheid, depended on exploiting the labour of millions of black workers in dangerous and hot conditions. Deep underground, workers risked inhaling silica dust, damaging lungs irreparably with the symptoms appearing years or decades later.

Thousands of former mineworkers with lung diseases in South Africa and neighbouring countries, such as Lesotho, have struggled to pay healthcare bills following their diagnosis. There is no limit to numbers who can claim under Thursday’s settlement.

The settlement covers companies including AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Sibanye Gold and Anglo’s historic gold operations.

Last year Anglo set aside $101m to cover claims from a potential settlement, an amount which it said had not changed as a result of Thursday’s deal. “We are pleased that this landmark settlement agreement has been reached,” said Norman Mbazima, the deputy chairman of Anglo’s South African operations.

Anglo and AngloGold Ashanti also agreed in 2016 to pay up to $35m into a trust to settle claims brought by 4,400 workers with silicosis.


Eskom Outlines Plans to Prevent South Africa Winter Blackouts

SOUTH AFRICA (Bloomberg) – South Africa’s state power utility doesn’t expect current shortages of coal to force a return to rolling blackouts as it sources extra stocks and moves around existing supplies of the fuel.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. supplies almost all of South Africa’s electricity and the coal shortages come as the utility prepares for the seasonal increase in power demand over the southern hemisphere winter. The company has also grappled with allegations of corruption and mismanagement and struggled to raise the funding it needed earlier this year. A repeat of power cuts from three years ago would quash signs of recovery in Africa’s most-industrialized economy.

Eskom, which had its board overhauled in January, continues to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, plans to complete work on a comprehensive long-term strategy by September and believes that forced blackouts this year are unlikely, Interim Chief Executive Officer Phakamani Hadebe told reporters in Johannesburg. The company received positive feedback in recent meetings with foreign and local investors, although concerns remain, he said.

“We are not saying that it’s smooth sailing,” Hadebe said. “We need to take painful, difficult decisions.”

The number of power stations with low coal stocks has now fallen to six from seven and may decline further within a couple of weeks, he said.

To address the coal-supply issue in the longer term, Eskom has issued a request for proposals for 100 million metric tons of coal over five to six years and those contracts are being evaluated, executives said. The company is currently about 84 percent contracted for the period to 2025, with a shortfall of some 15 percent a year.

It’s also set a budget to invest in so-called cost-plus mines over the next three years and is starting negotiations on 60-year supply for its new Kusile power station. Cost-plus refers to arrangements where mining companies manage and operate mines supplying Eskom at a fee and the utility provides capital.


South Africans’ wallets hit hard as fuel price spikes

SOUTH AFRICA (enca.com) – It has not been a good year for the wallets of South African consumers, with the latest blow being the fuel price spike that came into effect at midnight. Petrol went up by 49 cents a litre while diesel prices rose by 59 cents.

It comes on the back of April’s VAT increase, to 15 percent. The fuel levy was also increased. However, one economist reckons the petrol price hikes should not increase transport prices.

“For three months in January, February and March we had petrol price cuts and when you look at the two increases in April and now in May, they don’t take us back where the price of petrol was in December. So if ever any of the people who are using petrol increase their prices, it won’t be fair to consumers. There may be those who try their luck,” said economist Bonke Dumisa.


Global risks, opportunities and a new dawn for South Africa – Gordhan

SOUTH AFRICA (engineeringnews.co.za) – The global situation posed a number of risks, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan cautioned on Monday. He was addressing the India-South Africa Business Summit.

These risks include a new global financial crisis and damage to the multilateral trade regime, as well as the readiness (or lack of it) of countries for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including artificial intelligence. The countries of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) alignment could, he observed, mitigate against these.

Also, new ways to grow economies, achieve sustainable development and reduce inequality could emerge. “Clearly, yesterday’s skills are not good enough for tomorrow,” he highlighted. Training the younger generations will be the biggest challenge for both India and South Africa.

“Today, South Africa and India share many common factors,” he pointed out. They were both members of Brics, the G20 group of leading economies, and the World Trade Organisation. But today both needed to “raise the bar” regarding inclusive development and reducing inequality.

“In South Africa, … we do indeed have a new dawn,” he affirmed. “That new dawn has created an immense new spirit in the country.” It had increased trust between Government, business and citizens. And that trust would be increased if the people experienced the benefits of development, such as the provision of water, power and the creation of jobs.

Turning to his own portfolio, Gordhan referred to South African State-owned Enterprises (SOEs).

“SOEs need to move in a very different direction from the era of what we call State Capture in South Africa.” He noted that India also had major SOEs. “There is a lot of room for us to learn from one another [concerning good governance and the turning around of SOEs].”


South Africa gangs block highway with burning lorries

SOUTH AFRICA (bbc.com) – The fight-back against Chad poachers. A private, non-profit organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been credited with helping to turn around the fortunes of Zakouma National Park in Chad.

The BBC Travel Show’s Michelle Jana Chan finds out more: The lorry blockade on a major South African route between its two largest cities of Johannesburg and Durban seems to have been caused by anger at trucking firms reportedly employing foreigners as cheap labour.

Many lorries were seen burning near the Mooi River tollgate on the N3 in KwaZulu-Natal.

Col Thembeka Mbele told me:

The Mooi River community said they were protesting against truck owners hiring only foreigners.”

At least 50 people have been arrested, including some lorry drivers.

The protesters were initially complaining about poor working conditions, which they said the migrants had accepted.

South Africa has seen its fair share of xenophobic violence in the past. Its worst outbreak of violence against foreigners was in 2008, when more than 60 people died.

Many unemployed South Africans accuse migrants of taking their jobs.

But there is no evidence to show that any foreigners were targeted specifically because of their citizenship this time around.

Ishmael Mnisi, from the national transport department, told me the protests overnight were similar to those over the Easter weekend in the same area.

He said violence and looting were criminal offences and if anyone had labour-related complaints, channels were already in place to deal with such disputes. The N3 route has now partially re-opened.

Authorities in Burundi have arrested a ruling party official after he called on supporters to throw political opponents into a lake, a source has told Reuters news agency.

“We said that we have ordered boats. We will send them (opponents) into Lake Tanganyika,” Melchiade Nzopfabarushe said in a video clip.

Mr Nzopfabarushe made the comments to party members in his home village near the capital Bujumbura in a rally on Sunday, Reuters reports.

He was campaigning for a referendum on 17 May, when people will vote on whether to extend the president’s term from five years to seven, which could potentially extend President Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.

The ruling party said on Twitter it rejected “any subversive message which may jeopardise unity and cohesion among the Burundian people”.