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ANC SEES PROGRESS IN FIGHTING CORRUPTION

African National Congress (ANC) president Cyril Ramaphosa says that the party is beginning to see progress in addressing corruption.

Ramaphosa presided over an ANC lekgotla at the weekend.

He adds that he’ll tell the World Economic Forum in Davos this week that South Africa is serious about dealing with the scourge as he tries to woo investors.

The theme for the World Economic Forum in Davos is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”.

Ramaphosa will join various discussion platforms in Davos with an aim to develop a response to new strategies towards transforming governance in various parts of the world.

“The forum presents South Africa with a platform to showcase its attractiveness as an investment destination and trade partner; set out plans that are unfolding to secure improved and inclusive economic growth, and contribute to efforts to respond to societal challenges globally,” a statement reads.

Ramaphosa will also hold various meetings with high-level political and business leaders from various countries.

The South African delegation, led by Ramaphosa, includes a broad range of leadership from various sectors of the economy and society, with Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba as the lead minister and coordinator.

OUTCOME OF LEKGOTLA

The ANC NEC met on Friday night with a motion on the removal of state President Jacob Zuma reported to be under discussion.

But the party’s Khusela Diko has not confirmed this, saying that the ANC will communicate officially if there has been such a discussion.

With the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State PEC’s disbanded, their temporary steering structures are yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the party’s lekgotla which concluded on Sunday night will be announced at a briefing on Monday.

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Get those buckets ready. Rain is forecast for the Cape!

And now for the good news – rain is forecast this weekend for the drought-ravaged Western Cape.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille warned this week that preparations were underway for “Day Zero”‚ when taps run dry in the Mother City.

But for residents facing ever-tightening water restrictions the approaching wet weather spell will be a welcome respite.

The South African Weather Service said on Friday that there was a 60% chance of intermittent rainfall for most parts of the province from Saturday.

“Rainfall is expected for the Western Cape on Saturday‚ clearing up by Wednesday‚” said forecaster Victoria Nurse.

Heavy rainfall was expected between Plettenberg Bay and Cape Agulhas‚ she said.

Weather SA tweeted: “Strong and gusty winds (65-75km/h) are expected in places over the Cape metropole and surrounding coastal areas between Table Bay and Hermanus from this afternoon (Friday)‚ subsiding early Sunday morning.”

Severe thunderstorms were forecast over the south-western parts of KwaZulu-Natal and northern parts of the Eastern Cape from as early as Friday afternoon.

Weather SA tweeted: “Severe thunderstorms over Umzimkhulu and Ntabankulu local municipalities‚ moving south-eastwards towards Mhlontlo LM.”

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Extreme drought grips parts of South Africa

 

South Africa’s Cape Town, one of the world’s iconic tourist destinations, could run out of water by April as the city’s worst drought in a century risks forces residents to join queues for emergency rations.

After three years of unprecedented drought, parts of the city have less than 90 days’ supply of water in their reservoirs.

“Day Zero”, the date taps are due to run dry, has crept forward to April 22 as city authorities race to build desalination plants and drill boreholes.

Almost two million tourists flock to Cape Town every year, with travel and tourism accounting for an estimated 9 percent or 412 billion rand ($33bn) of South Africa’s economic output last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

At a trial water collection site, similar to an estimated 200 the city may introduce, people queued to fill up their water bottles, limited to a maximum 25 litres of water per person, a day, officials said.

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water, Xanthea Limberg, said the dire situation was being worsened by some people ignoring a push for residents and visitors to use no more than 87 litres of water per person a day.

City officials say dam levels dipped below 30 percent in the first week of the new year, with only about 19.7 percent of that water considered usable. Residents will have to queue for water when dams reach 13.5 percent.

The impact of the drought has been exacerbated by the fact that Cape Town’s population has almost doubled over the past 20 years. Despite that, climatologists describe this as a “once in a millennium” event.

This lack of rain over a three year period would challenge even the best-planned water regulations. It could be a taste of things to come. Climate change researchers predict more frequent dry years and fewer wet years to come.

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Are Afrikans schools to blame?

Paul Colditz

The recent court struggle over Overvaal High School and the EFF’s protest at the school on Wednesday have placed the spotlight squarely on language issues and admission of learners in public schools.

Gauteng politicians and officials were quick to attribute the crisis that inevitably arises each year at the beginning of the year when thousands of learners have not yet been admitted to schools, to the so-called refusal of Afrikaans schools to allow English learners to attend these schools. This reeks of opportunism.

Let’s look at the numbers.

There are 23 719 public schools in South Africa. Of these, only 2 484 schools use Afrikaans as language of instruction, either in single, dual or parallel medium. The single medium Afrikaans schools make up 1 279, or 5% of the total number of schools. If you also count the dual or parallel medium schools, 10% of the total number of schools in the country has Afrikaans as medium of instruction.

The table below shows the complete picture of the number and distribution of schools with Afrikaans as a language of instruction, with the numbers in brackets in column 2 indicating single medium schools. (In the third column, the numbers for 2016 are indicated because the information for 2017 has not been published yet).

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Over the past 10 years (2006-2016) the number of learners in public schools in Gauteng increased by 348 118. On the assumption that each school should accommodate 1 000 learners, it would imply the construction of approximately 348 new schools.

In reality, the total number of schools in Gauteng in the corresponding 10 years has only increased by 85. This is clear evidence of complete lack of proper planning and poor leadership.

Add to that the fact that certain schools in the province are running empty as parents try to escape the misery of poor education for their children – then it is clear why there is so much pressure on the well-functioning schools.

This has nothing to do with language.

It has everything to do with quality of education and migration of parents and learners away from provinces and areas where the education is not of an acceptable standard to areas, particularly Gauteng and the Western Cape, where they believe their children will have a better education and future. Incidentally, in the Western Cape the increase in learner numbers over the same 10 year period is 113 810, whilst the number of schools has decreased by 2. In a province such as the Eastern Cape it is calculated that there are about 2 000 school too many.

It is also interesting to note the average enrolment of schools in the provinces. The table below is ample illustration of the extent to which individual schools in Gauteng and the Western Cape have to accommodate far more learners than schools in other provinces.

2

The problem with dysfunctional schools and consequently poor education is indeed massive. When almost 80% of grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning, when thousands of children drop out of school every year, or are deprived of proper education because education departments do not appoint temporary teachers to fill vacancies, or appoint principals and teachers, or do not pay subsidies to which schools are entitled because provincial budgets are exhausted, it is not Afrikaans schools or any other schools’ fault.

Functional schools are making every effort to reach out to disadvantaged communities and schools in the midst of their own overcrowded programs. This includes Afrikaans schools. However, there is little that any individual school can do to cope with or solve the massive systemic problems. The cause of these problems must be placed squarely before the door of the state.

We live in a country where language, language rights, identity and culture, race and similar issues inevitably raise emotions and even rage. The placement of 55 learners who prefer English instruction in an Afrikaans single medium school which is already full creates the ideal opportunity to induce chaos and divert the attention from the actual problems facing millions of learners in the country on a daily basis.

Panyaza Lesufi, outspoken MEC for Education in Gauteng, is always very quick to play the race card. Our children must “play, dance and go to school together”, he says. What he doesn’t seem to know is that this has been happening for a long time, also in Afrikaans schools.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no public school in South Africa that is exclusively white or wants to be such. In fact, the majority of Afrikaans schools in South Africa are not so-called “white” schools.

It is excellent leadership by school governing bodies and principals who lead their communities to accept responsibility for their schools themselves that results in excellence and functionality. Functional schools do so in spite of, and not due to, the presence of the education department.

School communities have the opportunity to choose leaders this year to promote the best interests of their schools and children. The triennial election of governing bodies takes place countrywide in March. It is vital that every parent takes part in this process.

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SA lawyers demand $130m refund from firms

South African prosecutors have called for two consultancy firms to repay $130 million (£94.4 million) they earned from the state power company, Eskom.

McKinsey, and a local firm called Trillian, were paid the sum in 2016 for giving advice. Trillian was controlled by the Gupta family, whose closeness to President Jacob Zuma led to corruption charges. Both the Guptas and Mr Zuma, who has said he will set up an inquiry into the family, deny any wrongdoing. Officials are investigating whether McKinsey allowed money from Eskom to go to Trillian as a way of winning the consultancy contract. McKinsey, which has lost clients over the scandal, said it stopped working with Trillian once it realised its connection to the Guptas. The global firm has also said it is happy to return the money it earned in the deal. McKinsey, which admitted in October it “made several errors of judgement”, also maintains it gave no money to Trillian.

Last month, a South African court gave prosecutors permission to freeze the $130 million (£94.4 million) relating to the Eskom contract. This is the latest in a series of corruption news stories concerning Mr Zuma and the Guptas. The powerful family is accused of “state capture”, chiefly that it used its ties to gain government influence and lucrative state contracts. This is one of the first times the government has taken action against the Gupta family. The broader context here is that President Zuma’s political authority is fading as the governing ANC seems poised to remove him from office, says BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding. The move against McKinsey may well be just the start – as emboldened prosecutors start to target figures who, for years, seemed to many to be untouchable, our correspondent adds.

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Zuma’s fee free plan may cause chaos at SA’s universities

President Jacob Zuma’s move to scrap tuition fees for students from poor South African homes and freeze tariffs for those from working-class households may cause chaos during registration at public universities this month.

Zuma unveiled the plan on December 16, two days before Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ruling African National Congress and two days after a body representing the 26 state-owned institutions said each would raise fees by 8%. The University of South Africa, the country’s biggest with more than 400 000 students, held fees at 2017 rates, it said on December 7.

On January 1, the universities said they won’t allow walk-in applications from people who qualify for free education, but people should instead submit details online for assessment. A day later, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party condemned the move and called on all academically deserving students to report to universities of their choice for registration.

“Zuma’s announcement on free tertiary education is very much a political project and it puts a lot of pressure on the new ANC National Executive Committee,” Joleen Steyn-Kotze, a senior research specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council, said by phone. “It is possible that there will be chaos and universities are going to be on high alert.”

Earlier protests

Weeks of violent protests at universities across the country in 2015 and 2016 delayed the end of those academic years, and institutions’ finances were stretched by the state’s decision to limit tuition costs in 2016.

Africa’s most-industrialised economy is contending with a skills shortage and a 28% jobless rate. Investors are concerned that the fee proposal, which ignores fiscal targets set in the budget, will add to government debt and hasten another rating downgrade to junk for the country’s local-currency credit.

Under the plan that will be phased over five years starting in 2018, students from homes where the combined annual income is R350 000 ($28 400) or less annually won’t have to pay for tuition, books, meals, accommodation and transport.

The directive also froze fees for students from households earning R600 000 or less per year. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which provided assistance to about 226 000 university students whose family income was below R122 000 annually in 2016, will assess applications from prospective students who didn’t previously qualify for financial aid but who now do, Chief Executive Officer Steven Zwane said on Thursday in Pretoria.

NSFAS disbursed R12.4bn in financial aid to almost 482 000 students at universities and technical-vocational colleges in 2016, according to its annual report. Under the new plan, all those who are funding their studies through the organisation will have their loans converted to grants.

Funding allocation

The National Treasury allocated R76.7bn to higher education for the year through March 2018, and estimates this will increase by an average of 8.2% in each of the following three years, the fastest-growing spending item after debt-service costs, it said in the mid-term budget in October.

South Africa will increase subsidies to universities to 1% of gross domestic product from 0.7% now over the next five years, according to Zuma’s December 16 statement. The National Treasury will outline how the government will fund free higher education “in a fiscally sustainable manner” in the February 21 budget, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said after the presidency’s announcement.

“We can easily afford it if we cut out the amount of government money that is currently being wasted on corruption and state capture,” Azar Jammine, the chief economist at Econometrix, said by phone.

“Under the current circumstances there is too much pressure on the fiscus to afford the new measure.”

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Ramaphosa promises to target investment, corruption

South Africa wants to attract foreign investors to help it kick-start economic growth and will crack down on corruption, the new leader of the ruling African National Congress said on Saturday.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who narrowly won the race to succeed President Jacob Zuma as ANC leader last month, also used a speech to mark 106 years since the founding of Africa’s oldest liberation movement to call for party unity after a bitter leadership contest.

South Africa’s economy has slowed to a near-standstill over Zuma’s two presidential terms, as allegations of influence-peddling in government and mismanagement of state-owned enterprises have dented consumer and business confidence.

But Ramaphosa’s election win has injected a sense of optimism that the ANC, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, could win back the trust of voters and investors disillusioned with Zuma’s rule.

Ramaphosa, 65, a former trade union leader and one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, pledged during his campaign for ANC leader to address record unemployment and a sluggish economy.

“South Africa is open for investment,” he told tens of thousands of cheering ANC members in a stadium in the Eastern Cape province on Saturday. Through foreign investment “we can grow our economy, create jobs, end poverty,” he said.

“We must have an economy that offers policy certainty and addresses areas that inhibit investment, growth as well as social inclusion.”

Ramaphosa reassured investors that the role, mandate and independence of the central bank would be maintained while plans for free higher education for the poor would be implemented gradually so as to safeguard public finances.

The ANC needs to follow the example of liberation hero Nelson Mandela to unite the country and combat the racial inequalities that persist to this day, he added.

Ramaphosa faces a difficult balancing act as he must accommodate the competing interests of rival ANC factions vying for control of the party. One faction backed his bid for ANC leader, while another favoured Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former cabinet minister and ex-wife of Zuma.

ZUMA’S FUTURE

There has been widespread speculation that Ramaphosa and his allies are lobbying ANC members to oust Zuma as head of state in the coming weeks, but he made no mention of Zuma’s future.

Zuma, 75, sat alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to hear Ramaphosa speak and was booed on several occasions during Saturday’s anniversary celebrations.

Zuma’s second presidential term doesn’t officially end until 2019 when national elections will be held, but he could be removed early through a motion of no confidence in parliament or at a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee.

Ramaphosa welcomed Zuma’s recent announcement that there would be an inquiry into influence-peddling in government and said it was a top priority for those responsible to be prosecuted.

Zuma has denied allegations that he has allowed his friends to influence the appointment of ministers. Ramaphosa said that corruption in the private sector was also an important issue.

ANC member Vanita Kok, from the Khoisan royal house, said Ramaphosa’s message struck a chord because “corruption is rife”.

While markets have rallied since Ramaphosa’s victory, some analysts are sceptical he will deliver on his bold promises.

Gwen Ngwenya, an economist at South Africa’s Institute of Race Relations, said: “Ramaphosa is hamstrung by the need to ensure unity, and this will result in confused policymaking.”

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Solar steam powers homes – and new jobs – in South Africa

The power plants are part of SA’s push to cut its climate changing emissions by 2030.

South Africa may still get most of its energy from coal, but in the country’s sunny Northern Cape province, a different electricity source is taking hold: solar steam.

A Spanish renewable energy company has opened three thermal solar plants – which use the sun’s heat to create electricity – in the province.

The plants – which use sun-heated salt to drive turbines – produce enough electricity to provide power to just short of a million people, or almost the province’s entire population, according its operators.

That represents an important shift in a country that suffered power shortages as recently as 2015, but that now has excess power to sell to neighbouring southern African countries.

Just as important, the plants have provided new jobs in a province with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country, at more than 40%, according to U.N. officials.

They recognised the clean-energy project at climate change talks in Bonn in November as a creative model for bringing scarce private cash into renewable energy projects in Africa.

The first solar steam plant – KaXu Solar One, opened in 2015 in Pofadder – provided about 80 new permanent jobs, and about 1 700 temporary jobs, according to Sarah Marchildon, a spokeswoman for the UN climate change secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative.

The other two plants, including Xina Solar One, completed last year in Uppington, on the banks of the Orange River, have created another 45 permanent and 1 300 temporary jobs, she said.

“The region is now benefiting from stable, clean energy, and we are happy to have played a role in helping to solve South Africa’s electricity needs and improving the nation’s sustainability and energy security,” said Gerardo Rodriguez Pagano, the general director of Abengoa South Africa, which developed the plants.

More power, fewer emissions

The power plants – jointly owned by Abengoa Solar, the government’s Industrial Development Corporation and a community trust – are part of South Africa’s push to cut its climate changing emissions by 2030, in line with its promises under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

In 2011, the government announced plans for 28 renewable energy projects around the country.

The solar thermal technology is generally a more expensive way to produce clean energy than traditional wind or solar-panel energy, said Kruskaia Sierra-Escalante, a finance manager with the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank group organisation that provided part of the funding for the project.

But it produces a more stable and predictable supply of power as sun-tracking mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays to heat salt, which is then used to produce steam that powers turbines to produce electricity.

Energy can be stored both in molten salt and as electricity in batteries, something crucial to building a reliable power grid, Sierra-Escalante said.

Because both wind turbines and solar panels provide energy only when the wind blows or the sun shines, clean power sources that can provide energy at other times – such as solar thermal technology that stores heat – are considered key to stabilising clean power grids, experts say.

The World Bank came under huge criticism in 2010 when it agreed to provide a $3 billion loan to help South Africa build Medupi, one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants, as world leaders were trying to seal a global deal to curb climate change.

The World Bank has since agreed, in 2013, that it would finance coal plants only in unusual circumstances, when there are no reasonable alternatives to meet basic energy needs.

More cash for clean energy

The solar project, with its mix of public and private finance, is seen as a model for helping boost large-scale clean energy projects in Africa.

“By involving private sector funds to begin operating in an emerging market, the KaXu Solar One project is an innovative and transformative financial solution that addresses climate change,” Marchildon said.

“Leveraging private sector finance has proven to be a major obstacle for the funding of renewable energy projects in emerging economies,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Up-front costs to build large-scale solar plants are significant, and international investors can be hesitant to jump into developing markets, she said.

But solar projects, once put in place, have lower operating costs, she said, which can be a draw for investors.

“KaXu has helped to unlock the South African concentrated solar power plant market, attract financiers, and drive down costs,” Marchildon said.

It is now “the first operational private-sector utility-scale concentrated solar power plant project in South Africa – and in the developing world,” she said.

Pagano, of Abengoa South Africa, said the Northern Cape’s sunny conditions – the best in the country – were the reason to put the first solar thermal plants there, but the company would be open to looking at replicating the plants in other areas of South Africa.

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Will Cape Town be the first city to run out of water?

Cape Town, home to Table Mountain, African penguins, sunshine and sea, is a world-renowned tourist destination. But it could also become famous for being the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Most recent projections suggest that its water could run out as early as March. The crisis has been caused by three years of very low rainfall, coupled with increasing consumption by a growing population.

The local government is racing to address the situation, with desalination plants to make sea water drinkable, groundwater collection projects, and water recycling programmes.

Meanwhile Cape Town’s four million residents are being urged to conserve water and use no more than 87 litres (19 gallons) a day. Car washing and filling up swimming pools has been banned. And the visiting Indian cricket team were told to limit their post-match showers to two minutes.

uch water-related problems are not confined to Cape Town, of course.

Nearly 850 million people globally lack access to safe drinking water, says the World Health Organisation, and droughts are increasing.

So it seems incredible that we still waste so much of this essential natural resource. In developing and emerging countries, up to 80% of water is lost through leakages, according to German environmental consultancy GIZ. Even in some areas of the US, up to 50% of water trickles away due to ageing infrastructure.

A growing number of technology companies are focusing their work on water management – applying “smart” solutions to water challenges.

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Youth should not only chase tenders

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has urged South African youth to make the most of the state’s Black Industrialists Programme, and come up with innovative business ideas instead of chasing tenders and shareholdings at established companies.

Gigaba was speaking to the SABC on the sidelines of the Progressive Youth in Business breakfast in the Eastern Cape on Thursday, ahead of the ANC’s birthday celebrations to be held this weekend in East London.

He also highlighted government’s role in helping SA youth access markets. SA has one of the world’s highest rates of youth unemployment.

According to StatsSA’s quarterly labour force survey for the third quarter of 2017, youth unemployment stands at 38.6%.

“We want young people to become innovators and entrepreneurs, to come up with fresh ideas and take advantage of the Black Industrialists Programme,” he said.

The Black Industrialists Programme was launched in 2016 and is driven by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to promote a more inclusive economy by increasing black ownership of industrial enterprises.

Government has been making an effort to remove barriers to entry for the youth, but they have to “organise” themselves and identify sectors they want to be involved in, said the finance minister.

“[They should] not only focus on seeking tenders in government and seeking shareholding in existing companies,” he added.

“Young people are the group in society which can provide more long term and sustainable entrepreneurial activity than you can get from older people close to retirement, trying to make a retirement package as quickly as possible and least likely to embark on more long-term sustainable endeavours,” said Gigaba.

Some initiatives by Treasury to support SMMEs include undertaking public procurement legislation reform and ringfencing sectors in the economy for participation by black people, he explained.

Further, the dti also provides funding for SMMEs through the Black Industrialists Programme, and the private sector, particularly the CEO Initiative, has established a R1.5bn SME fund to support growth and development of small businesses.