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Self-testing kits and vending machine drugs are helping South Africa’s battle against HIV

SOUTH AFRICA (thejournal.ie) – SELF-TESTING KITS and vending machines distributing prescription drugs are two ways that HIV treatment is being automated to reduce stigma in South Africa, home of the world’s biggest HIV epidemic.

With 7.1 million people living with HIV in the country, removing human intervention is helping experts target hard-to-reach groups like young men who are often reluctant to queue in public clinics.

Students, porters and labourers have flocked to a new HIV self-testing stand outside a supermarket in Hillbrow, a gritty district of central Johannesburg.

The project was started in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2015 and expanded last year to include South Africa, which has an 18.9% HIV rate among adults.

A small team of young and stylishly-dressed “peer educators” convince men aged between 18 and 30 to take the tests, which – in a breakthrough for South Africa – are self-administered.

“It’s targeted at young men and if we have a group of young men around, we pull more people in,” said Lynne Wilkinson, an expert at the University of the Witwatersrand Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, which oversees the project.

From May, the scheme will be extended to several of Johannesburg’s bustling minibus taxi ranks which carry hundreds of thousands of commuters every day.

After passers-by complete a simple form, they are handed a pack to take into one of a row of unassuming portable pop-up tents to ensure privacy.

‘Did it to inform myself’

They follow a short guide showing how to swab their gums with a wand before placing it into a holder.

“Instructions are in six languages and most of the time people do it right,” said Mokgadi Mabuela, a confident 25-year-old, who distributes and demonstrates the tests.

After 20 minutes, the test results are delivered by lines that indicate negative or positive.

Those showing positive are offered immediate confirmation tests which, if conclusive, are followed-up with treatment referrals.

Those not wanting to wait for their results can take the packs home.

“Last week I came past with my brother who tested and I was passing by today. It was easy and I did it to inform myself,” said one young man, who declined to be named.

The kits, which are free to the users, contain advice on what to do if a home test is positive.

The project is an initiative of Unitaid, the Geneva-based organisation that says three out of every 10 people with HIV worldwide do not know they have the virus.

It has so far brought hundreds of thousands of the tests into South Africa and surrounding countries and plans to distribute 4.8 million self-screening kits in total.

One of those who tested positive after self-screening was 45-year-old musician Oscar Tyumre from Alberton, east of Johannesburg.

“With their counselling, they advised me to go to their clinic to take their medication right away,” he told AFP.

“I was delicate at the time – but I started right away.”

‘Know your health status’

Oscar added that knowing his status was actually a relief.

“My advice is don’t despair. It’s not the end of the world, you can go straight into treatment and still live to 100,” he said.

Ten kilometres north, in the sprawling Alexandra township, South African not-for-profit Right ePharmacies last week launched an ATM-style dispenser that removes the need for face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist to collect HIV treatment.

Patients can activate the vending machines – the first in Africa – using a membership card and PIN number which calls up repeat prescriptions pre-loaded by doctors.

Law requires a live pharmacist sign off on the transaction so after a Skype-like video call, the medication is dispensed. It takes less than five minutes.

“It’s much easier and quicker,” said Alexandra resident Philda Dladla, aged 59, who uses the machines to collect HIV treatment twice a month.

“Before, we used to wait for the whole day at a clinic. It’s easy and anyone can do it — as long as you don’t forget your PIN number!”

The system’s privacy booths also mean patients can avoid publicly revealing their condition – unlike in busy local clinics.

“The only way anyone would know your health status is if you left with the medication showing,” said operations manager Thato Mathabathe beside one of the pharmacy’s four €137,000 German-made robotic dispensers.

Roughly 200 patients use the system every day and users have collected 16,000 items, including HIV/AIDS drugs as well as diabetes, epilepsy, asthma and hypertension medication since September.

There are now plans to expand it to three other sites in the Johannesburg region.

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The fake news campaign that tried to divide South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (DANIEL VAN BOOM) – June 19, 2017, a news site in South Africa runs a story. It’s no normal story.

“National Treasury Sold to Johann Rupert,” reads the headline.

In a majority black country, Rupert, a white business magnate worth an estimated $7 billion, is the second richest man.

There was no evidence to support the explosive headline, but the story wasn’t retracted or corrected. It wasn’t designed to inform, it was designed to mislead. It was fake news.

The story was posted on WMC Leaks, one of many fake news sites making up an online network of misinformation. Behind the network: a trio of Indian businessmen known as the Guptas. The Guptas are infamous in South Africa.

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta aren’t your regular family of businessmen. With close ties to former president Jacob Zuma and constant whispers of politicians in their control, the Guptas were increasingly at odds with a hostile public who saw them as the face of corruption in South Africa.

In a move reminiscent of Russian operatives looking to disrupt the US during the presidential election and the UK during the Brexit referendum, the Guptas in 2016 decided to use the power of the internet, and social media in particular. What ensued was a scandal that became part of the increasingly global issue of fake news.

The phrase may be synonymous with the US’ 2016 election, but fake news has caused concern in countries around the world. Many in Italy feared it would inform the country’s early-March election, for instance. Meanwhile, the US ambassador in Kenya said the country’s democracy is being undermined by fake news. The European Union said it found spikes in misinformation posted in Catalonia during its independence referendum last year.

In these cases, fake news campaigns focused on an election or referendum. South Africa’s fake news campaign was similarly political — it sought to protect President Zuma, but its real mission was broader in scope: improve the reputation of the Guptas, whose alignment to Zuma was strong enough that some of the public referred to the group as the “Zupta government.”

Through their Oakbay Investments company, the Guptas hired UK PR firm Bell Pottinger, allegedly paying it $2 million (24 million rand), to set up an online fake news campaign. The network went into effect around July 2016, working in full force for around a year.

Divide and conquer
The Guptas and their team got the message out with fake news sites and bots that shared stories from these websites, as well as retweeted Gupta-aligned political voices en masse. This worked in tandem with Gupta-owned TV and print media. All of it promoted one simple message to South Africans: You shouldn’t be worried about the Guptas, you should be worried about the white elite.

The campaign’s key phrase: “white monopoly capital.” Embedded in that phrase were two key components: The fact that South Africa’s economy is still dominated by white-owned businesses, and the argument that these businesses influence the government more than the Guptas do — and work to exclude the black majority from rising into affluence.

Here’s how the campaign was run, according to data from the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR).

Politicians and activists worked with the Guptas, either because they were paid to or because it was mutually beneficial to do so, to push messages online in support of Zuma, or disparaging those who opposed alleged Gupta corruption. Scores of bots were used to amplify these messages. Bots amassed over 215,000 retweets of Gupta-aligned voices from July 2016 to June 2017.

All of these messages were magnified with the help of ANN7, a 24-hour news channel, and the New Age newspaper, both owned by the Guptas.

Here the campaign ran differently from Russia’s meddling in US politics. Russian operatives stole or created identities to pose as Americans on Facebook and Instagram. The Guptas’ campaign, meanwhile, relied more on real people to make political statements, and used a swath of bots and their own official media channels to trumpet those messages.

One such voice, ANCIR says, is Andile Mngxitama. Mngxitama is president of Black First Land First, a revolutionary political party.

“Andile would tweet about white monopoly capital or would tweet a link to one of his fake stories, and the bots would retweet it as much as possible,” said Amanda Strydom, managing editor of ANCIR. “But Andile also had his little posse who would retweet what he had done or write their own tweets, so there were actually human people who would tweet, and the bots would be used to amplify whatever they tweeted.”

This was further bolstered by a set of news websites, set up with corresponding Facebook pages. These included Gupta-linked “alternative news” sites like Weekly Xpose and Mngxitama’s own Black Opinion, which resemble editorial-heavy propaganda sites, as well as completely phony ones like WMC Leaks, according to ANCIR.

“The stories [some sites] created were completely fabricated,” Strydom said, pointing to one of the sites posting photoshopped images of journalist Ferial Haffajee sitting on the lap of Johann Rupert in an attempt to slander her reports on government corruption.

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South Africa Corruption Inc

Last month, South African President Jacob Zuma was forced from office by his own party, the African National Congress, when almost a decade’s worth of corruption, bribery and racketeering allegations finally became too great to ignore.

It is possible that within weeks he could appear in court to face charges relating to at least one of the many financial intrigues from his years in power.

His most infamous former associates, the billionaire Gupta brothers, are now fugitives from justice amid claims that during the Zuma years they systemically looted state assets on a truly astonishing scale – principally by using their friendship with the then president to influence political appointments and win lucrative government contracts.

They are believed to have fled the country and taken refuge in Dubai, where they own property.

But the former president and his state-capturing confreres are not the only ones under scrutiny in South Africa these days.

We’ve been to examine the role allegedly played by major international companies in scandals so toxic and far-reaching, they look set to haunt the country for years to come.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera

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What is waiting for South Africa when ‘Ramaphoria’ is over?

South Africa (businesstech.co.za) – Following the major political changes at the start of 2018, a new word has entered the South African vocabulary – ‘Ramaphoria’.

According to Wayne McCurrie, fund manager at Ashburton Investments, the word describes the ‘warm fuzzy feeling’ that permeates the fabric of the new “New South Africa”.

“It is really amazing how (effectively) changing one person can make such a difference. The future looks much brighter,” he said.

However, McCurrie says that, in addition to giving the South African public the ‘warm and fuzzies’, there are also other tangible economic reasons why South Africa is in a better place compared to a couple of months ago.

He outlined the following reasons behind Ramaphoria and the global context that currently prevails.

Global backdrop

McCurrie said that it was sometimes to South Africa’s advantage to be a relatively small country in the bigger scheme of things.

“The Global Financial Crisis a decade back almost brought the world’s economy to a grinding halt,” he said. “We only really experienced the crisis as an ‘observer’ and were shielded to a large extent from the fallout.

“Make no mistake, if the world’s economy had collapsed (and this was a real possibility without decisive action), South Africa would have been sucked in,” he said.

Fortunately the big central banks released massive amounts of liquidity into the system in the form of Quantitative Easing, he added.

“This was really just printing money to throw at the problem, the biggest liquidity injection ever undertaken.

“In monetary terms, it was of the same scale as the monetary cost of the second world war. Interest rates were dramatically reduced so that asset prices would be supported and consumers and companies did not drown in debt.”

McCurrie noted that the plan has now worked and now that ‘the medicine’ (Quantative Easing) is no longer needed, it is in the process of being withdrawn.

“What we are now sporadically experiencing is some form of ‘withdrawal symptom’,” he said.

Storm cloud on the horizon

McCurrie cautioned that with Quantative Easing (effectively low interest rates) being withdrawn, interest rates are likely to drift up globally.

While he reassured that this is very normal for this advanced stage of the current global economic cycle – the rising rates bring new dangers with them.

“While not forecasting a catastrophe, it is probably accurate to say that the best years for investment markets are behind us,” he said.

“The very favorable environment for equity in particular (low interest rates and a strongly recovering economy) is near its end. This may worry the market and will at certain times almost scare the market. Be prepared for this.

“The very favourable environment has also (justifiably so), driven global equity markets to an elevated level. They are ‘highly priced’ and could be unsettled by the spectre of rising interest rates,” he said.

Ramaphosa

McCurrie added that the true cost of the President Zuma years is that South Africa’s economy should have started recovering two years ago, when the commodity cycle turned.

“Mainly because of low confidence, brought on by the uncertainty prevalent at the time, our economy was held back from participating fully in this recovery. Now that this has changed and this uncertainty has dissipated (with one exception – the land issue), we are playing catch-up,” he said.

While this growth is positive, McCurrie said that South Africa is not embarking on a multi decade period of expansion at 4%+ growth rates.

“To get the economy to this sort of growth path does not change by changing one person. It requires an extended period of competent and rational macro and micro economic management, accompanied by the structural reforms that are necessary. Hopefully we will get there, but are definitely not there yet,” he said.

As a result, McCurrie believes that ‘Ramaphoria’ is thus “returning to where we should have been, had we not had the Zuma years”.

“It is most welcome and we almost deserve it, but a little caution is required,” he said.

“South Africa can potentially deliver a growth rate of say 2% per year for the next few years, assuming that the global storm cloud does not arrive. The rand will most likely not collapse, but will most probably weaken a little from current strong levels.”

Land

Speaking on the issue of land expropriation without compensation, McCurrie said that the issue remains the biggest uncertainly prevalent in South Africa at the moment.

“While it is vital that land ownership must be addressed to promote social cohesion, how it is done is vital to market stability,” he said.

He added that this “worry” will prevail until the market has certainty.

“Until this happens, we are going to hear scare stories which will worry markets/investors,” he said.

“We will hear ‘Zimbabwe land grab’, ‘The state will own all land’, ‘Chaos will prevail’, ‘The end of the rainbow nation’ etc.”

“Be very aware that these are lobby groups postulating to their support base. Do not believe all the scare stories.

“Our new President has assured the nation that this issue will be handled with caution in a responsible manner that will not threaten food security.

“Until a policy document/statement is issued by the new administration the uncertainty will unfortunately still prevail, putting a bit of a dampener on Ramaphoria,” he said.

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South Africa land protest turns violent; 30 arrested

JOHANNESBURG (The Associated Press) – South African police have arrested about 30 people after violent protests in which demonstrators tried to occupy state-owned land and set a police station on fire.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioters who looted shops, vandalized buildings and threw stones at vehicles in the coastal town of Hermanus on Monday.

Local media outlet eNCA says protesters occupying vacant land demanded that the municipality supply them with water and electricity.

The unrest follows recent statements by President Cyril Ramaphosa that land transfers must be managed through dialogue and that there will be “no smash and grab” seizures.

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South Africa police say may issue Zuma summons this week

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African police could this week issue former president Jacob Zuma with a court summons relating to corruption charges over a years-old $2.5 billion arms deal, a spokesman for the Hawks investigative crime unit said on Sunday.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) last week said it would seek to prosecute Zuma on 16 charges, including fraud, racketeering, corruption and money laundering.

Zuma could not be reached for comment on Sunday. He has repeatedly denied the allegations. A court appearance would be a dramatic development on a continent where former presidents rarely face their accusers in court.

“We are of the view everything will be finalised soon. Hopefully this week,” Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi told Reuters.

News24, citing sources close to the case, reported that Zuma would be summoned to appear in the Durban High Court on April 6. Mulaudzi declined to comment.

Zuma, who was forced to resign by his ruling African National Congress last month, was at the center of a 1990s deal to buy European military kit that has cast a shadow over politics in South Africa for years.

Zuma was deputy president at the time of the arms deal. Schabir Shaikh, his former financial adviser, was found guilty and jailed in 2005 for trying to solicit bribes for Zuma from a French arms company.

The 16 counts were filed against Zuma but then dropped by the NPA shortly before he successfully ran for president in 2009.

Since his election nine years ago, his opponents have fought a lengthy legal battle to have the charges reinstated. Zuma countered with his own legal challenges.

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Smartphone sales soar in SA

Smartphone unit sales in South Africa climbed by around 21% in 2017, even as South Africans reduced their spending in most categories of the consumer technology market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

Storage, media streaming device, and speaker retail sales also saw healthy growth last year, while tablet computer, desktop computer and mobile computer sales experienced sharp declines.

GfK South Africa’s data shows that smartphone sales in South Africa climbed from around 10 million in 2016 to over 12 million in 2017. Even though much of this growth was driven by adoption of entry-level smartphones from second-tier brands, the value of the smartphone market showed an increase of 22%.

Sales of basic mobile phones dropped 11% in 2017, as users continued to migrate to smartphones.

“Electronics, telecommunications and information technology retail experienced a difficult year in 2017 as consumers tightened their belts in response to economic difficulties in South Africa,” said Nikolay Dolgov, GM of Point of Sales Tracking at GfK South Africa.

“However, the smartphone market continued to show strong growth as more South Africans sought to get connected to the Internet and as smartphone prices continued to fall.”

Quarterly sales of mobile devices reached record levels in the fourth quarter of 2017, largely driven by Black Friday retail specials in November and robust sales during the December festive season.

In addition to entry-level smartphones, the large-screen ‘phablet’ form factor also experienced significant growth.

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“Consumers are looking for special deals and promotions when they’re ready to upgrade their devices,” said Norman Chauke, Solutions Specialist at GfK South Africa.

“What’s more, we’re seeing the pace of the transition from basic phones to smartphones accelerate as the price gap between them narrows. Operators are nudging subscribers towards smart devices as they seek to grow their data revenues.”

Sales in the information technology segment – including tablets, desktops and mobile computers – declined by 25% in 2017.

The sharp drop is largely due to a continued deterioration in sales of media tablets, with unit sales falling more than 40% to less than 1 million units. Large-screen smartphones are cannibalising tablet sales as users choose to buy a better smartphone rather than a new tablet.

Mobile computer sales dipped by more than 15% and desktop fell 29% as consumers held off upgrading as a volatile exchange rate continued to affect pricing. Desktop and mobile computer manufacturers continue to address weak sales of their devices by selling more affordable, lower-specced machines with older generation processors, less RAM and smaller screen sizes.

Storage saw good growth in 2017, with increasing shipments of mobile computers with SSD hard drives that have low storage capacities driving growth for external storage.

“Though low-end platforms such as the Celeron account for more than half of the market, sales of premium devices based on Core i5 and Core i7 grew during 2017,” said Chauke.

“In line with established trends in market, we are seeing tech-savvy online shoppers, in particular, gravitate towards premium mobile computers.”

Turning to the consumer electronics market, panel television sales were strong in the fourth quarter of 2017, largely thanks to good sales during the week of Black Friday in November. Consumers snapped up large-screen TVs and premium models over the Black Friday period, translating into a healthy and high average price.

Despite strong Black Friday sales, the panel TV market for the full 2017 year was flat.

Ultrahigh definition, 55 inch screens showed a significant decline in sales. Despite a negative growth for the consumer electronics segment, loudspeakers reached a record high in sales value during the fourth quarter of 2017.

Audio home system sales, however, dropped significantly during the quarter.

SOURCE: businesstech.co.za

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SA is Setting the Standard for Water Wise Tourism

South Africa (nationalgeographic) – Something extraordinary is happening in South Africa. The warm, dry climate that has shaped this beautiful country into such a popular tourist destination also makes water a particularly precious resource. Driven by the global problem of climate change, South Africa is positively changing its relationship with water and encouraging everyone to become more water wise. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in South Africa’s vibrant tourist sector. Creativity and innovation abound as sustainable water wise tourism becomes the new normal and visitors are encouraged to become part of the solution by embracing what locals do—respecting water. How they are doing this makes for some truly remarkable stories.

The cuisine of the Western Cape is world famous, and some of its restaurants have adapted themselves to water wise tourism with remarkable flair. Leading the way is celebrated chef Luke Dale Roberts who has introduced innovative water-saving techniques in his award-winning restaurants. Floors are mopped with water harvested from air-conditioning units, and diners are asked if they mind using the same cutlery throughout the meal—they almost always agree. Each dish is served on a disposable card fitted into a picture frame, an artistic touch that saves washing 5,000 plates a week. Even the menus have been given a waterless twist. In fact, in becoming water wise Luke has re-evaluated his approach to everything, and he’s not alone.

Across the country hotels are exploring new ways to reduce their water footprint. The Oyster Box in Durban has incorporated some leading practices in eco-tourism, including harvesting ‘grey’ water from showers, baths and basins to be filtered and pumped to holding tanks used for flushing toilets. Meanwhile, rainwater is directed off its roofs and through an extensive underground pipe network to a large storage tank for use in the gardens. Elsewhere, across South Africa polite signage reminds guests to be water wise, explaining the importance of low-flow fittings on taps and shower heads, enforced half-flushes on toilets, the absence of bath plugs, and why ordering a bottled drink without a glass could earn you a discount on your bar bill.

South Africa’s leisure facilities are a great attraction for tourists and every effort is being made to ensure their sustainability. Golf clubs are being encouraged to find better ways of keeping their greens green, from harvesting and storing water for irrigation to landscaping with local plants and using indigenous grasses: The Cape Town Open golf tournament consciously moved to a course irrigated by effluent water. Similarly, The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon drew its drinking water from an approved natural spring and cooled hydration packs with ice made from recycled water. Many game reserves have their own natural water supplies that are sustained and managed with ever more care. And when it comes to the little things, safari lodges encourage tourists to bring quick-dry lightweight clothes that can be hand washed, and to hold onto half-drunk bottles of water from game drives to pour over thirsty pot plants.

South Africa has got the message: every drop of water counts. In just three years Cape Town has cut its water consumption from 1.2 billion litres to 515 million, setting the benchmark for cities around the world. South Africa is settling into a new culture of efficient water-use that could see it become as famous for world-leading water conservation as for its wonderful wildlife, cosmopolitan culture, and beautiful beaches. Indeed, while the rains may sometimes be scarce, water wise tourism is keeping South Africa very much open for business and the welcome is as warm as ever.

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SA and the fable of the missing Guptas

South Africa (An ambitious family arrived from a distant land, wormed its way into the heart of a young democracy, became unimaginably rich and influential, stood accused of trying to hijack the state itself, and then, overnight, vanished into thin air, leaving those who had fallen under the family’s spell – and those who had warned against it from the start – to wonder how anyone could have got away with so much, for so long.

Today, South Africans – by turns stunned, humiliated, and vindicated – are still trying to digest the impact of the Guptas, and to assess what harm they have done to the country’s institutions, politicians, and democracy.

“I think the damage can be reversed,” said the political analyst Prince Mashele – but only if the authorities here move fast, and aggressively, against those who allegedly conspired with the Indian-born family.

“Society must see people going to jail. Once you do that, you’re sending a message that if you do what… the Guptas did, there will be consequences.”

‘Untouchable’
It was last month that the South African police’s elite Hawks unit shocked the nation by arriving at the Guptas’ lavish compound in Johannesburg before dawn, looking to make arrests.

For years the family had seemed untouchable, repeatedly implicated in corruption by state officials, email leaks, and senior politicians, but apparently protected by their close friendship with President Jacob Zuma.

But everything changed on that dramatic day, 14 February. Within hours of the police raid, President Zuma had announced his resignation, and the three Gupta brothers were found to have vanished abroad.

“I think they will only return if they’re extradited,” said legal campaigner Mark Haywood, whose Section 27 organisation had been among many groups pushing the South African authorities for years to confront the Guptas.

“It’s a victory… We mobilised on (so many) fronts to expose what was going on. We eventually made it untenable for this sort of ‘capture’ of the state to continue. We forced the authorities to do what they should have done right from the beginning.”

Empire crumbling
Today, South Africa’s law enforcement agencies are keeping quiet about their plans. The Gupta brothers are widely thought to be in Dubai, where they reportedly own a house.

The oldest Gupta brother, Ajay, is officially a “fugitive from justice”, but the police here will not discuss any extradition plans, or say which other family members they may be targeting, or on what grounds.

In the meantime, the Guptas’ business empire appears to be crumbling fast in South Africa. A coal mine, a television station, a luxury jet, a friendly bank, a dairy farm, and half a dozen other Gupta-linked companies are either closing down, changing hands, or being targeted for seizure by the authorities.

At the same time, an increasingly uncomfortable spotlight is being shone on prominent politicians who, it is alleged, either partnered the Guptas, or turned a blind eye to their alleged misdeeds.

Senior figures have already been removed from the board of the badly compromised state energy company, and the controversial head of the country’s revenue collection service, SARS, has just been suspended.

“I’ve no doubt this new chapter… means that those Zuma and Gupta-linked crony networks are going to be very quickly, and effectively uprooted,” said the Democratic Alliance’s shadow police minister Zakhele Mbhele, who nonetheless warned that other corrupt patronage networks would continue to thrive at a provincial and regional level within the structures of the governing ANC.

Mr Zuma, now an ordinary citizen, is facing separate legal troubles as a much older corruption scandal – involving alleged bribery by a French arms company – comes back to haunt him. But a judicial inquiry into “state capture” – allegedly involving the Guptas and Mr Zuma – is also likely to begin soon. The former president’s retirement seems likely to be busy, and eventful.

As gloomy as many South Africans are about the damage the “Zuptas” have done to their young institutions, there is also a mood of relief here, and, for some, a belief that the Guptas have, unwittingly, played a useful role.

“If you told South Africans that this could happen, we’d say ‘no!’ But the Guptas… proved that it is possible – that you could come in from outside and capture an entire democratic state and control it. It means we are now much more careful as a society. So they have actually woken us up,” said Prince Mashele.

It still sounds like a fable.

Artış Grafiği

GDP Growth Surprises In South Africa

  • South Africa’s real GDP growth rate surprised on the upside, accelerating to a 3.1% quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) during the fourth quarter of 2017.
  • Overall real GDP growth averaged 1.3% in 2017. Revised GDP numbers produced by the South Africa Statistical Service, StatsSA, now also show that South Africa avoided a recession during 2017.
  • For 2018, IHS Markit expects real GDP growth to average 1.6%, with the risk tilted towards an upward growth surprise amid favorable policy adjustments, including a 50 basis point interest rate cut this year.
  • The South African economy will also benefit from positive business and consumer sentiment following the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and his subsequent inauguration as the president of the country. However, concrete business friendly economic policies will now be required to spur investment further along.
  • We do not expect a downgrade of South Africa’s local currency debt rating during March 2018 but the risk of a downgrade later in the year remains significant.

South Africa’s real GDP growth rate accelerated at a 3.1% quarter-on-quarter SAAR during the fourth quarter of 2017, higher than the market consensus of 1.8% SAAR. This contributed to headline GDP growth of 1.3% in 2017 from 0.6% in 2016. Revised GDP numbers for the previous three quarters of 2017 produced by the South Africa Statistical Service, StatsSA, now also show that South Africa avoided a recession during 2017.

Agricultural sector props up growth during 2017

Primary sector GDP increased by 4.9% SAAR during 2017 Q4: a double digit rebound in agricultural production mitigated a downturn in output in the mining sector during the fourth quarter. Secondary sector economic activity rose by 3.1% SAAR: both the manufacturing and water and electricity sub-sectors recorded strong growth while the growth rate in the construction sector weakened reflecting dismal residential and non-residential building activity. Tertiary sector GDP growth averaged 2.7% SAAR in 2017 Q4: sectors showing the largest contribution to the tertiary sector’s growth performance included wholesale and retail trade sales and the financial sector. Weaker growth of between 0.1%-0.2% SAAR was recorded in the transport and communications, government services and personal services sub-sectors.

SOURCE: seekingalpha.com