South African Farmers Lose Crops And Workers Amid Crippling Drought

Tony Largier grows apples, plums and nectarines at Little Oaks Farm, near Villiersdorp, in South Africa's Western Cape province. It's a beautiful piece of land in a valley between mountains. The closest peak gets snow in the winter. We walk amid his nectarine trees. "This variety is summer bright. It's sweet, crunchy. It's a good nectarine. It's one of the newer varieties," says Largier. He and other farmers in the area pull water from the nearby Elandskloof Dam — part of a network of dams that farmers, villages and the City of Cape Town share. Farmers here work on a quota system. An irrigation board determines how much water each farmer needs to grow certain crops, and how much the dam can spare. The allocations have gotten smaller amid a three-year drought. "All these farms pull off the dam, and we have a measured amount that we can pull every year," Largier says. "If you get your 100 percent quota, that would be what they reckon you need to grow a hectare of fruit." This year, Largier only got a 17 percent allocation, because the Elandskloof Dam is only one-third full. "You're living on borrowed time at that. Seventeen percent is a huge problem," Largier says. Agriculture is big business here in the Western Cape. Industry economists estimate that apples and pears are worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. South Africa is one of the world's largest pear producers. The Theewaterskloof Dam is the biggest in the network. Located about 85 m

South Africa’s Zuma faces new no-confidence vote this month

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma faces a no-confidence vote this month, a new attempt to unseat the president by opponents emboldened by splits within his own party. Zuma, who is battling corruption allegations, is in a weakened position since he was replaced as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in December by Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president. The 75-year-old president is expected to meet the ANC’s six most powerful officials this weekend, but the agenda of the meeting has not been disclosed. Ramaphosa, 65, has been lobbying the ANC’s national executive to force Zuma to resign. The ANC has said it has discussed Zuma resigning before the end of his term in mid-2019, although his staunch supporters within the party say that will not happen. Zuma, who has not said whether he will step down voluntarily before his second term as president ends, has been deserted by several prominent allies in the ANC since Ramaphosa took over leadership of what is the only party to govern South Africa since the end of apartheid. On Friday, parliament speaker Baleka Mbete agreed to a request from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for a motion of no-confidence, though she refused to hold the vote before the president’s state of the nation address on Feb. 8, and scheduled it for Feb. 22. The rand, which tends to strengthen on signs Zuma could leave office, pared losses on the announcement from parliament. Investors associate Zuma’s te

Rescued Sibanye Gold miners receiving medical attention after being trapped underground for over 24 hours

The National Union of Mineworkers confirmed on Friday morning that all 955 Sibanye Gold mine workers who were trapped underground have been resurfaced. "The mine workers were rescued at around 06:30 this morning," the union's national spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu confirmed to News24. "They are currently getting medical check-ups. No injuries were sustained - they are just exhausted." A meeting was set to be held later at the mine's training centre with management after all the workers had been attended to medically. Sibanye Gold spokesperson James Wellsted also confirmed that the miners had been brought to the surface and that there were no serious injuries. "There were some people with dehydration and few cases of high blood pressure and 16 of our older employees needed drips - but everything was successful. "We are providing counselling for them and their families where it's necessary," Wellsted told News24. Storm The miners were trapped underground at their Beatrix mine unit following an electric cable outage after a storm on Wednesday night. The mine worked around the clock to restore the power supply in order to rescue them. "[They have been trapped for quite some time now and [are] quite fatigued, but they are in an area that is ventilated," Wellsted said on Thursday evening. He added that they had been in constant contact with the miners, who had access to food and water and were in no danger.  


Gauteng Premier David Makhura says that disciplinary processes against provincial Health Department officials who were found not guilty for their roles in the Esidimeni tragedy will be restarted. Makhura concluded his testimony at the arbitration hearings in Parktown on Wednesday. He apologised to the families who lost their loved ones as a result of the chaotic patient transfer project. At least 144 mentally ill people died. Makhura has been questioned about health officials who were charged for their roles in the Esidimeni tragedy but then found not guilty and only given written warnings. These officials include the deputy director of mental healthcare services in Gauteng, Hannah Jacobus. Jacobus, a professional nurse with more than 30 years experience, admitted earlier this year that she bypassed legal processes when licensing the NGOs where patients subsequently died. Makhura says he plans to have people such as Jacobus be subjected to another disciplinary hearing because a warning letter is not enough. “We’re so determined to proceed with those disciplinary processes of any of our officials who did something that was wrong.” Makhura has also assured families that former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu's resignation does not mean further action can't be taken against her.