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”.


Protests grip South Africa as introduction of minimum income dubbed ‘poverty wage’ is delayed

  • Nationwide protests hit South Africa this week over a proposed minimum wage.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has pushed a minimum income of R20 ($1.62) per hour — a figure that compromises on what businesses and workers have put forward.
  • “The president recognizes that the national minimum wage is not a living wage, but we need to start somewhere,” Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko said.
  • South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

Disagreement over a proposed minimum wage in South Africa has led to mass protests and reassurances from the presidency this week.

President Cyril Ramaphosa met with officials from the labor ministry on Thurday, following protests the previous day that mobilized workers across the country including in the cities of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa has been pushing a minimum wage of R20 ($1.62) per hour, a policy that was scheduled to be implemented on May 1 though the draft legislation was since delayed in parliament. The initiative dates back to Ramaphosa’s days as deputy president under former South African leader Jacob Zuma.

The minimum wage is intended to alleviate inequality and stabilize labor. But, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), the group behind the strike, described it as a “poverty wage on which no-one should be expected to live” in a press release Sunday. The minimum wage “legitimizes the unequal apartheid wage structure,” it added.

“The president recognizes that the national minimum wage is not a living wage, but we need to start somewhere,” Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko said, as reported by Reuters.

SAFTU, the second-largest group of its kind in the country, instead proposes a living wage of R12,500 per month — three times that of the intended minimum wage in monthly terms.

South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. According to the World Bank, the poorest 20 percent of South Africans consume less than 3 percent of the country’s total expenditure. Meanwhile, the wealthiest 20 percent account for 65 percent.

Wages aside, the nation is also known for its rampant unemployment, currently at 26.7 percent according to Statistics South Africa.

But not all trade unions back the protests. Matthew Parks, deputy parliamentary co-ordinator of the Congress of South African Trade Unions — the largest of such groups — described the R20 minimum wage as a “huge victory” given that businesses had originally pushed for R11.

“It’s a start, not the end,” he told CNBC Friday, adding that “the president played a key role in supporting us.”

The minimum wage dispute might not equal a setback to Ramaphosa’s leadership, which was widely cheered following the abrupt end to the corruption-tainted, unpopular Zuma administration in February.

“Facilitating negotiations, with the aim of reaching consensus — including over difficult issues — is a key theme of Ramaphosa’s presidency,” Pat Thaker, editorial director for the Middle East and Africa at the analysis firm Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC on Friday.

She added that a national minimum wage could benefit Ramaphosa by tackling deep-rooted inequality and poverty as well as giving his African National Congress party an “electoral boost in 2019,” when the country next heads to the polls.

SOURCE: cnbc.com


South Africa president to meet labour ministry after minimum wage protests

SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Thursday meet officials from the labour ministry to discuss the planned introduction of a national minimum wage, a day after nationwide protests over the policy which he has championed.

Several thousand union members marched in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and other cities on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the 20 rand ($1.6) an hour minimum wage, which they have called “starvation wages”.

Ramaphosa sees the minimum pay, which was meant to be introduced on May 1 but has been delayed, as an important first step to tackle labour instability and wage inequality.

The president recognises that the national minimum wage is not a living wage, but we need to start somewhere.

He has staked his reputation on revamping a stuttering economy and rooting out corruption associated with Jacob Zuma, whom he replaced as president in February.

Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman, Khusela Diko, said his meeting with the labour ministry on Thursday was not a response to Wednesday’s protests but was part of regular updates he had been receiving on the minimum wage.

Protesters on Wednesday called for the proposed hourly wage to be scrapped and replaced with a “living wage” of 12,500 rand ($1,000) a month. That wage would be more than three times higher than the 20 rand an hour minimum wage in monthly terms.

“The president recognises that the national minimum wage is not a living wage, but we need to start somewhere,” Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Diko said.

Labour ministry spokesman Teboho Thejane said the ministry had received a memorandum from protesters on Wednesday and that officials hoped to finalise amendments to minimum wage legislation with lawmakers by August.

Thejane did not give an estimate for the new implementation date of the minimum wage, which was approved by the cabinet under former president Zuma in November after lengthy discussions with unions and employers.



Why South Africa may soon have a 16 age restriction for WhatsApp

SOUTH AFRICA (businesstech.co.za) – WhatsApp – alongside a number of other major social media companies – recently announced changes to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policies.

This was done as the European Union is currently updating its privacy laws (known as the General Data Protection Regulation -or GDPR) to require greater transparency on how people’s information is used online.

As part of the changes, WhatsApp has updated its age restrictions for using the service:

If you live in a country in the European Region, you must be at least 16 years old to use WhatsApp.
If you live in any other country except those in the European Region, you must be at least 13 years old to use WhatsApp.
This means that the current age restriction for WhatApp in South Africa remains 13 years of age, with anyone younger requiring a parent or guardian to agree on their behalf.

However, this may change soon, according to Verlie Oosthuizen, head of Social Media Law at Shepstone Wylie.

Speaking to BusinessTech, Oosthuizen said that one of the key components of South Africa’s incoming Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is aligning South Africa’s privacy laws with international standards.

“The Information Regulator has indicated that it will be working closely with other data protection regulators and is likely to follow the lead of the EU and UK,” Oosthuizen said.

“The POPIA is very similar to the EU legislative instruments – although the GDPR is much more comprehensive.

“The EU will only allow the transfer of data of EU citizens to countries that they believe have adequate data protection provisions, and so they are really demanding that South Africa has the same types of restrictions.”

“This means that South Africans can expect the Information Regulator to be strongly influenced by the GDPR going forward,” she said.

What if my child accepts anyway?

Oosthuizen explained that when a South African child who is below the required age accepts the terms and conditions, the contract will not be valid.

“The contract is void and WhatsApp can terminate the services,” she said.

“The terms of service absolve WhatsApp from any wrongdoing in all instances (whether this is legally enforceable would be dependent on the case). However, if a child under the age restriction uses the services, it is a void contract and the service will certainly assert that they cannot be found liable for wrongdoing.”

Blindly accepting terms and conditions

Oosthuizen also said that blindly accepting any terms and conditions (whether it be for WhatsApp or another service), means that you are as ‘bound’ as you would be in any other contract, and there are only very specific circumstances in which you may be released.

“Those circumstances are quite rare and people would be well advised to take the time to read at least one set of ‘T&C’s’ so that they know the kinds of rights that they are handing over,” she said.

“People need to remember that the use of social media platforms is not compulsory. They provide a free service and you need to abide to the terms and conditions if you want to utilise that service.”


How two South African women stopped Zuma and Putin’s $76 billion Russian nuclear deal

SOUTH AFRICA (qz.com) – It made no sense that a country like South Africa, with year-round sunshine, would abandon its renewable energy options to focus on nuclear power instead.

But a nuclear energy deal between South Africa and Russia has been at the center of much of South Africa’s political uncertainty as well as corruption allegations under former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned in February. The deal, which would have cost South Africa $76 billion to build a Russian-run nuclear energy plant, would have gone ahead if it weren’t for two women. For their work, Makoma Lekalakala, 52, and Liz McDaid, 55, were among those honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco on Apr. 23.

In 2014, Lekalakala received a tip from environmental activists in Russia that the South African government had signed a secret deal with the Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom to build a massive new power plant. As the head of a volunteer-driven organization called Earth Life, Lekalakala began to stage small protests around Johannesburg and outside the office of the national power supplier Eskom, but needed to create more awareness about the deal.

She contacted Liz McDaid, an old friend and a veteran anti-nuclear activist in Cape Town. Every Wednesday morning, McDaid and a handful of protestors from the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute stood outside parliament to raise awareness about the deal, which would have put the state further in debt.

As South Africans learned more about the proposed nuclear bid, the two women and the NGOs they represent approached a court in October 2015 to compel the state to follow the law in procuring nuclear deals. They also petitioned the energy and public enterprises ministers to allow public consultation before any deals were finalized.

By then, the energy minister had already presented the Russia deal to parliament as an intergovernmental agreement (pdf) between Pretoria and Moscow that would see 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power added to South Africa’s grid. The minister swore that no binding agreement had been signed without the proper oversight, but the environmentalists argued otherwise.

Controversy over the deal led to the firing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who refused to sign off on it. The deal would have also allegedly enriched Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma, and his allies the Gupta family, who had already acquired a uranium mine allegedly in preparation for the nuclear project. In the meantime, Vladimir Putin’s political image began to loom larger over daily politics in South Africa.

Eventually, the two virtually unknown NGOs won their court bid and a judge ruled that any deal with Russia was unlawful. A judge set aside any agreement with Rosatom, signed or not, and ordered that if South Africa wanted nuclear power it would need to restart the bidding process, this time with the proper public involvement. With Zuma seen out of office, in January then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa scuppered any nuclear ambitions when he said South Africa simply has no money to build a nuclear power station.

The environmental prize comes nearly a year since the court ruling, but Lekalakala is still cautious about the use of nuclear energy in South Africa, even with Zuma gone. In January, Rosatom entered the South African economy anyway with a new deal to develop and manage a hydro-electric power scheme. Still, any energy deals in South Africa will likely come under great scrutiny from now on.

“The nuclear deal was—and potentially still is—a major threat to the livelihood of South African citizens and our quality of life,” said Lekalakala. “There are other ways of generating energy, ways that are clean and affordable, and puts the power in the hands of the people.”


South African activists awarded Goldman Environmental Prize for fight against nuclear power deal

Liz McDaid and Makoma Lekalakala have been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for their role in stopping a controversial nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia.

Now they are urging other women to step up and fight against injustice.

“I think it’s like when you come up against bullies, at a certain point, you actually say enough is enough,” Ms McDaid said.

“It’s within the grasp of ordinary people. Let the politicians keep shouting, but let’s get on and make a difference.”

The fight of their lives
The two women, both aged in their fifties, one white and one black, took on the South African Government in 2014.

Together they led a campaign to stop a multi-billion-dollar deal with Russia, to build a series of nuclear power stations in South Africa.

The agreement had not passed through the normal checks, balances and scrutiny of parliament.

South Arica had also signed deals with the United States and South Korea.

Ms Lekalakala believed the project was unsafe, unnecessary and unaffordable.

“This deal was literally going to bankrupt the country,” she said.

“For us, challenging the abuse of power and protecting our constitutional right, this is fundamental.”

Their organisations — Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith Communities Environmental Institute — teamed up with other groups, including environmental lawyers, to take on the government.

Ms McDaid said she was confident she and Ms Lekalakla, along with their supporters, would win.

“I think what is really nice is that in a world that is often being led by men, this was a space where two women could actually work together,” she said.

“We have the same sort of energy, same attitudes and value system. So, we worked very well together.”

The environmentalists filed a case against the President of South Africa, the Department of Energy and the Speaker of Parliament.

“To say no nuclear energy should proceed without having satisfied all the legislative and regulatory processes,” Ms McDaid said.

On the 26th of April 2017, the High Court in Cape Town found the Government had not followed due process.

As a result, the deal was declared invalid and unconstitutional.

Ms Lekalakala and Ms McDaid began their activism against the apartheid regime in the 1980s.

Ms McDaid said people should not believe the story that they are powerless.

“We do live in a democracy, we have the right to stand up, we have the right to protest, and so people must use it,” she said.


South Africa to Appeal Ruling on Black Ownership of Mines

SOUTH AFRICA (bloomberg.com) – South Africa has sought leave to appeal a court judgment earlier this month over a crucial black-ownership principle in the country’s Mining Charter, the nation’s mining lobby said.

The Chamber of Mines has been notified that Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and the Department of Mineral Resources filed the application, it said in a statement Monday. The High Court in Pretoria on April 4 ruled that the first two versions of the country’s charter didn’t require producers to top up black-shareholding levels in perpetuity if they previously met the minimum 26 percent requirement.

“The chamber is currently reviewing the specified grounds of appeal, although the DMR’s appeal appears to center on the majority judges obiter dictum comments about the legality of the 2010 charter and the enforceability of the charters,” the lobby group said.

The development is another volley in a longstanding legal battle to clarify the charter rules. The case was revived last year by the chamber, which sought a declaratory order on the so-called “once empowered, always empowered” principle. The group has argued that companies can reach the black-ownership requirements by counting previous sales to black investors, even if those investors later sold their shares to whites or foreigners.

The Department of Mineral Resources didn’t immediately return an email and call seeking comment.

Mineral Reserves
South Africa has the world’s biggest reserves of platinum and manganese, and its mineral deposits also include gold, iron ore, coal, chrome and zinc. Anglo American Plc, Glencore Plc and South32 Ltd. are among companies operating in the country.

Read more: A QuickTake on South Africa’s Mining Charter

Malan Scholes Inc., a Johannesburg-based law firm, has made a separate application to declare current and previous charters unconstitutional because they lack definition and are inconsistent. The chamber opposes the view that the 2004 and 2010 charters are not valid and has agreed to join as a respondent to that application, it said.

Mantashe is holding talks with the industry, unions and mining communities on a new charter, a set of rules aimed at distributing the wealth of the industry more widely. Earlier this month, he said he’s confident that work on the charter will be concluded in May.


South African Government Ramping Up Efforts To Get More Land Into Black Ownership

SOUTH AFRICA (npr.org) – Nearly a quarter century after the end of apartheid, whites still own most of the land in the country, and a new political party thinks it should be appropriated without compensation.

The government of South Africa is ramping up efforts to get more land into black ownership. A controversial plan under consideration would seize property from owners without paying them and redistribute it. Land reform has been a key issue since the end of white minority rule 24 years ago, but blacks still largely don’t hold land. Peter Granitz reports from Pretoria.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Twenty-five-year-old John Ratema is a college graduate armed with an education in finance, but he’s unemployed. Joblessness in South Africa is high, and he’s had no luck finding anything in his field. So now he says he’s contemplating a future in farming.

JOHN RATEMA: Because I grew up in a place where we used to do gardens and so for – to – for living. The spinach, tomatoes – and tried just to sell them.

GRANITZ: The catch – he doesn’t own any land. The garden plot of his youth was in far northern South Africa. He moved here to central Pretoria for school and stayed hoping to find work. On this Sunday morning, Ratema is registering to vote. He supports the left-wing political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, because of its calls to expropriate land without compensation.

RATEMA: We just want the land that is owned by the white people to give it back to the government.

GRANITZ: A government audit shows whites own 72 percent of South Africa’s land and black South Africans, who make up 80 percent of the population, own just 4 percent. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the government has tried various land reform policies, including a willing seller, willing buyer program. Critics of that system say the government has been too willing to buy land at inflated prices, and that the government is hoarding the land instead of transferring it to would-be farmers. President Cyril Ramaphosa says a quarter century into democracy, it’s time to address the country’s original sin.


PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: We should not be too angry, too scared, too anxious to get into this debate.

GRANITZ: Ramaphosa has promised the expropriation of land without compensation will not be what he calls a smash and grab. Political analyst Sithembile Mbete says Ramaphosa and his African National Congress are pursuing expropriation now because of political necessity.

SITHEMBILE MBETE: They finally are facing an electoral challenger that has put it on the agenda.

GRANITZ: The Economic Freedom Fighters. The ANC’s popularity is sinking after more than 20 years in power, and the party risks losing its outright majority in next year’s elections. Mbete says it’s adopting a populist bent to maintain power. It’s a risky bet and one that could pay out at the polls.

MBETE: Part of what the disposition of land was by successive colonial regimes and then by the apartheid regime was about destroying the humanity and the personhood of black South Africans so that when people say they want land, part of it is also about wanting ancestral belonging and dignity.

GRANITZ: Here at Louis Meintjes’ farm north of Pretoria, women transplant seedlings into four and six-packs of vegetables that will eventually be sold at local stores for people to plant at home. The women, eight full-time employees, work in shade huts on Meintjes’ 103 acres. He says if the government takes his land, they’ll be out of work.

LOUIS MEINTJES: If they come with us, they can say, I’m going to take your land and you’re off. And I lose this. I’m 65 years old. My wife is 60 now. So we’d – I lose everything

GRANITZ: Meintjes bought the farm 37 years ago at the height of the apartheid era. And he says he’s never been this nervous about losing his property even as the country transitioned to democracy. If the government wants to reallocate land, he says, it should start with the land it owns and give the new landowners title deeds.

MEINTJES: We need to give everybody a chance. But I did not steal my land. I’ve got a legal title deed. And that’s the issue.

GRANITZ: Economist Wandile Sihlobo says agriculture is key to South Africa’s economy and stability. The country is the most food secure on the continent.

WANDILE SIHLOBO: They say they want to expropriate land without compensation given that that doesn’t destabilize the food production as well as the economy. But it’s almost impossible to do that.

GRANITZ: South Africa has a cautionary tale in its northern neighbor. Nearly two decades ago, Zimbabwe seized land without compensation. What followed was economic disaster and food shortages. In South Africa, no land has been taken yet. Parliament has agreed the issue must be addressed. It will report back in August how to proceed. Until then, farmers continue to work amid the uncertainty. For NPR News, I’m Peter Granitz in Pretoria.


South Africa: Ramaphosa leaves Commonwealth summit to deal with protests

SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has cut short his attendance at the Commonwealth summit in London to deal with violent protests at home.

Clashes have taken place in North West province where protesters are demanding jobs, housing and an end to corruption.

Shops have been looted, roads barricaded and vehicles set alight.

President Ramaphosa, who took office in February, has sought to encourage investment in South Africa during his visit to the UK.

Protests in South Africa’s North West province erupted on Wednesday as demonstrators demanded the resignation of provincial Premier Supra Mahumapelo – a member of Mr Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress (ANC).
Mr Ramaphosa is scheduled to hold meetings with ANC leaders in the provincial capital Mahikeng on Friday, his office said.

“To pay attention to the situation in the North West, the president has decided to cut short his participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London where he is leading a government delegation,” a statement said.

Mahikeng has been at the centre of the latest disturbances – dubbed “service delivery protests” – and streets were reported to be deserted on Thursday after bouts of looting and clashes with police.

Mr Ramaphosa has called for calm and ordered police to exercise restraint.

South African media said officers used tear gas to disperse protesters who had set light to a bus, stoned vehicles and blocked roads with burning tyres.

Nine people have been arrested since Wednesday, South Africa’s Timeslive reported citing police spokesperson Adele Myburgh.

The situation in South Africa’s North West province is the worst unrest since Mr Ramaphosa took office in February.

Protesters are demanding jobs and housing as well as an end to corruption.

Mathole Motshekga, a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee, told the BBC that the protests were a “rude awakening” for the party’s leadership.

“They want President Ramaphosa to lead a clean government. He has inherited people they suspect of being corrupt,” Mr Motshekga said.

He added that the ANC’s leadership needs “to deal with the people that are reasonably suspected to be corrupt within the ranks of the organisation.”

Mr Mahumapelo’s office has denounced the protests as an attempt to discredit him.

“[It is] an anti-Supra Mahumapelo political campaign which seeks to intimidate residents of Mahikeng‚” spokesman Brian Setswambung said, according to Timeslive.

Neighbouring Botswana said it had closed exit points along its shared border with North West province.

South Africa’s faltering economy has been a priority for Mr Ramaphosa since he took over from former President Jacob Zuma.

Growth had been weak and unemployment painfully high as Mr Zuma’s leadership was dogged by years of corruption allegations.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg in London, Mr Ramaphosa said he was seeking $100bn (£71bn) in investment to help kick-start the economy.

He said his government was determined to tackle corruption.


South Africa’s new president is lifting investor sentiment: Central bank chief

SOUTH AFRICA (cnbc.com) – Momentum in South Africa’s economy has followed political change ‘There is positive investor sentiment in South Africa’: SARB Governor
South Africa’s investor appeal is experiencing a robust recovery under the two-month old government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country’s Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago said on Thursday.

Since Ramaphosa took power, both business and consumer confidence have improved, Kganyago told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.

The positive momentum is also reflected in financial markets. “We saw bond yields decline, the currency strengthen so there is positive investor sentiment in South Africa and that, of course, lays a basis for a cyclical recovery,” Kganyago said.

Ramaphosa, the successor to embattled former leader Jacob Zuma, is widely regarded as a pro-business politician committed to fighting graft and boosting foreign investment. Once a top performing emerging market, the economy took a hit under Zuma, who was criticized for heavy government interference in business affairs.

Also encouraging was the government’s tabling of a budget, which is setting a path for fiscal consolidation, and the fact that Moody’s revised its credit outlook to stable from negative last month, Kganyago continued.

Ramaphosa this week announced a drive to attract more than $100 billion in foreign investments — a target that Kganyago called “aspirational.”

While the country has been enjoying steady portfolio investment, foreign direct investment will take longer, the central bank head said, adding that once a suitable domestic environment is created, Ramaphosa’s goal will be achievable.