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Almost half of deadly mine accidents in South Africa happened at Sibanye-Stillwater sites: Minister

SOUTH AFRICA (mining.com) – South Africa’s Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Sunday that 20 out of 45 mining deaths reported since the start of 2018 have taken place at Sibanye-Stillwater’s (JSE:SGL) (NYSE:SBGL) mining sites.

At a press conference in Pretoria, Mantashe announced that the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate is investigating and compiling a report on the precious metals producer with the idea of taking appropriate action.

“Mining is not about rocks‚ it is about people. Once you lose that‚ you think that mining is about rocks‚ it’s about minerals‚ it’s about prices‚ then you have lost the plot … If you ignore human beings‚ you’ll have no mining,” he said.

Earlier this week, five people died at Sibanye’s Kloof Ikamva gold project after they entered an abandoned section of the mine. This was just the latest in a series of fatal incidents at the companies’ South African operations, which have generated concern in the government and an uproar from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, known as AMCU. Although it has acknowledged the accidents, the company says that AMCU only wants to hurt its reputation.

Nevertheless, according to Minister Mantashe, fatalities in the gold mining industry seem to be on the rise in South Africa and there are growing worries about the proportion that take place at Sibanye’s operations.

Mantashe’s pronouncement was made at a meeting aimed at discussing the country’s new Mining Charter. The government official said a 30-day period for public comments has just started and that once it ends, the law will be sent to cabinet for publication.

Among other things, the Charter stipulates that mining companies have five years to increase black economic empowerment ownership to 30 per cent‚ while black South Africans must constitute 50 per cent of board members‚ 20 per cent of whom must be black women.

Government will give credit for past black-empowerment deals even when the investors later sold their shares to whites or foreigners.

“Some people said that 30 per cent [ownership] is not substantial,” Mantashe said at the media briefing. “But if you convene to zero, where we were at the beginning, it is very substantial,” he added.

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South Africa proposes 5% black ownership in mining in mining firms

SOUTH AFRICA (Reuters) – South Africa plans to raise black ownership at permit-holding mining companies to 30 percent from 26 percent within five years, the latest draft of a hotly-contested new industry charter showed on Friday.

The government and miners had been at loggerheads over a previous version of the charter, which the Chamber of Mines industry body slammed as confusing and a threat to South Africa’s image with investors.

The new draft charter extends to five years from one year the time that existing mining permit holders will have to meet the new black ownership requirement.

It also addresses a dispute over companies that were not recognised as having complied with black empowerment rules under the previous version of the charter, even when that was the result of a black investor selling shares.

“Publishing of the Charter moves us a step forward in terms of ensuring regulatory and policy certainty for the industry,” mines minister Gwede Mantashe said in a statement.

Agreeing a new version of the charter is seen as instrumental to securing further investment in the mining sector, which new President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a priority.

The charter, published for public comment before being refined into law, is part of South African affirmative action rules that aim to reverse decades of exclusion under apartheid.

A new addition to the latest charter is that at least 50 percent of the seats on mining company boards will have to be allocated to black South Africans, and that at least 20 percent of those must go to black women.

For new mining right applicants, they must have a minimum of 30 percent black shareholding before securing the permit, according to the draft.

But the requirement that 10 percent of that ownership target be granted for free to communities and qualifying employees, dubbed ‘free carry’, might cause controversy among mining companies.

The Minerals Council South Africa, an industry lobby group, said it was against the free carry stipulation.

“The industry does not favour a requirement of 10 percent ‘free carry’ on new mining rights as part of the proposed 30 percent BEE equity ownership target, as it would render uneconomic a significant proportion of potential new projects, and would undermine and constrain any prospects for growth in the sector and indeed the economy as a whole.” MCSA said in a statement.

Other proposals in the charter include: new mining rights holders must pay 1 percent of core profit, or EBITDA, to employees and communities and that 70 percent the mining goods procurement budget must spent on South African made goods.

Demonstrators protest outside Megawatt Park, Sunninghill, June 14, 2018. Eskom workers are demanding a 15% salary increase while Eskom has decided to cut completely any increases for this year, saying they simply do not have the funds. Photo: Greg Roxburgh.

South Africa faces a very bleak winter of electricity discontent

SOUTH AFRICA (Sunday Times) – Demonstrators protest outside Megawatt Park, Sunninghill, June 14, 2018. Eskom workers are demanding a 15% salary increase while Eskom has decided to cut completely any increases for this year, saying they simply do not have the funds. 
Image: Greg Roxburgh

Economists and energy experts have warned that a current protest by Eskom workers who are threatening a national electricity shutdown could have dire consequences for the country.

Just the hint of a possible shutdown could negatively affect the economy.

Eskom said the generation and distribution of electricity across its network was constrained owing to “acts of sabotage and intimidation” by trade union members‚ but the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and National Union of Mineworkers denied this.

Meanwhile‚ electricity demand is set to spike this weekend as two cold fronts slam into the country‚ with temperatures set to plummet and gale-force winds and snow expected.

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Two killed in South Africa mosque attack

SOUTH AFRICA (news.com.au) – South African police say two worshippers have been stabbed to death in an attack on a mosque in Malmesbury, Western Cape.

Two people have been stabbed to death at a mosque in South Africa’s Malmesbury in the Western Cape before the attacker was shot dead by police.

Thursday’s attack comes a month after three knife-wielding men stormed a mosque north of Durban, killing one person and seriously injuring two others.

Police said that incident showed “elements of extremism” but did not otherwise comment on the motive behind the attack in Malmesbury, a small farming town north of Cape Town.

“Police were called out to a local mosque and found two people stabbed to death and several injured,” the police said in a statement.

“The suspect, believed to be in his thirties and armed with a knife, was still on the scene and charged at the police who tried to persuade him to hand himself over. He ignored the calls and tried to attack police. He was shot and killed in the process.”

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SOUTH AFRICA’S BLACK ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT LAW TO EARN BLACK INVESTORS $1.3 BILLION

SOUTH AFRICA (Black Enterprise) – Vodacom Group, Africa’s second largest mobile communications company, will pay out approximately $1.3 billion to its black investors as part of the company’s participation in the black economic empowerment (BEE) effort, enforced by South African law.

The company said on Monday that it had “entered into an agreement of up to R17.5 billion with its existing black economic empowerment (BEE) partners and a newly formed staff scheme” that will see the partners swap their current holdings in Vodacom South Africa for shares in its parent company, Vodacom Group.

“Vodacom Group has agreed terms with Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH), Thebe Investment Corporation (Thebe), YeboYethu (existing BEE partners) and a newly formed staff scheme, whose combined interests will be consolidated into a new YeboYethu BEE structure that will own shares in Vodacom Group,” the company said in a news release.

In the approximately $1.3 billion agreement, BEE partners will exchange their current holdings in Vodacom South Africa for a shareholding of between 5.8% and 6.25% in Vodacom Group, the company said.

WHAT EXACTLY IS BEE?:

After its transition from Apartheid in 1994, South Africa’s African National Congress government decided to address the inequalities of Apartheid by redistributing assets and opportunities to South African blacks, Coloreds and Indian citizens, not available to them under White rule.

From South Africa’s own Treasury:

“It is an integrated and coherent socio-economic process. It is located within the context of the country’s national transformation programme, namely the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme). It is aimed at redressing the imbalances of the past by seeking to substantially and equitably transfer and confer the ownership, management and control of South Africa’s financial and economic resources to the majority of the citizens. It seeks to ensure broader and meaningful participation in the economy by black people to achieve sustainable development and prosperity.”

In essence, BEE attempts to “create a degree of economic equality which would not itself be a natural market outcome” of the newly created political and socio-economic climate in the country. In plain English, the affirmative program is meant to level the playing field and spread the wealth to the historically oppressed people during Apartheid.

VODACOM’S SHARE EXCHANGE:

Vodacom Group Limited, solely known as Vodacom, is a South African telecommunications company which provides voice, messaging and data services to over 55 million customers operating in over 40 African countries. The company is wholly owned by Vodafone Group plc, a British multinational telecommunications conglomerate.

In 2007, South Africa instituted the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. The goal is to spread the wealth across a broad spectrum of disadvantaged South Africans, which is in contrast to the original BEE which was narrow-based and focused only on equity ownership and management representation. The new law ensured that black employees and citizens were able to purchase shares in privately held and public corporations.

The three investment groups named in the $1.3 billion share swap: Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH), Thebe Investment Corporation (Thebe), YeboYethu (existing BEE partners) are all community, South African and black-controlled investment groups. Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH), for example is a community investment company, entrusted with the unique responsibility of preserving and growing the financial capital of the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN), an ethnic homeland of the Bafokeng people. Although Thebe Investment Corporation’s ownership structure has changed over the years, the ANC still has a controlling stake in the empowerment group (investment firm) through Batho Batho Trust, founded in 1992 as an ANC investment company, ensuring that black wealth is passed down to generations of black South Africans.

The third investment group, YeboYethu Limited, a publicly traded company, was formed in 2008 as an employee stock ownership plan to buy and hold Vodacom SA shares for the benefit of its shareholders. When Vodacom formed the company in 2008, it issued 14.4 million YeboYethu ordinary shares at R25 each ($1.88 in 2018 USD) and as a result a public offer, more than 102,000 qualifying black investors bought a stake in Vodacom SA.

WHAT BLACK INVESTORS GET:

When October comes around, Vodacom will unwind the empowerment transaction it initiated in 2008 and there will be R3 billion ($226 million) dividends for participants to share. At R67.28 per share, that represents a return of 2.7 times on their original investment, Vodacom said. Also, investors will now have shares in Vodacom International group rather than Vodacom SA.

  • YeboYethu will remain listed on the BEE segment of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange
    5.8% – 6.25% deal that consolidates the BEE shareholding, through YeboYethu, at Vodacom Group level
  • Transaction delivers R7.5Bn of value to existing BEE shareholders, 6.7 times the original capital investment
  • R3.0bn special dividend to current BEE shareholders, representing 2.7 times their original equity contribution
  • Will increase Vodacom Group’s effective BEE ownership to 20%
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Three miners killed in accident at Sibanye gold mine in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Reuters) – Three gold miners were killed in South Africa on Monday at a Sibanye-Stillwater plant and the company said rescue teams are searching for two others.

At least 18 people have died at Sibanye’s South African mines this year including seven trapped underground at the Masakhane mine in May.

Sibanye said five employees entered an abandoned working place at its Kloof Ikamva mine near Johannesburg and were killed in an incident the company is investigating.

“We are not sure what happened,” spokesman James Wellsted said. CEO Neal Froneman has said seismic events are a fact of life at South African mines.

“It seems that disasters have become the order of the day at Sibanye Stillwater and as NUM we are highly disturbed and angered by this,” National Union of Mineworkers said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”

Sibanye noted in a recent operational update that last month’s disaster was a concern for its investors and a factor behind a roughly 28 percent fall in its share price last month.

In all, 88 people died in mines in South Africa in 2017 and 73 died the previous year. Prior to that, numbers of fatalities had fallen for nine years. The country has produced a third of all gold mined since records began.

Safety matters for investors in South Africa’s gold industry. The country is home to some of the world’s deepest mines. Sibanye-Stillwater is South Africa’s biggest producer. The company also produces platinum and has operations in the United States.

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South Africa’s finance minister warns of challenges as rand tumbles

SOUTH AFRICA (Business Daily Africa) – The South African government is concerned by the rand’s plunge to its lowest this year and will step up a “defence mechanism”, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said, but he fell short of calling the currency’s dip a crisis.

The rand dropped to 13.2875 against the dollar on Friday, its weakest since Dec. 18, Thomson Reuters data showed, as the country’s economy and slowed and global investors shied away from riskier assets.

“Call it very challenging times. It then depends when you begin to call it a crisis,” Nene told the Sunday Times.

“But these are very challenging times, and it’s for this reason that we can’t be complacent about it. We actually just need to step up our defence mechanism.”

He did not say what measures South Africa could take.

South Africa’s rand suffered last week when data showed the economy shrank by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, with the most significant falls in agriculture, manufacturing and mining.

At the same time, risk appetite among investors has eroded on speculation Europe’s massive monetary stimulus is nearing an end, compounded by uncertainty over trade relations before a meeting of G7 leaders.

The rand had rallied when Cyril Ramaphosa seemed set to be elected leader of the ruling African National Congress in December. His election as state President in February, days after Jacob Zuma was forced out as leader by the ruling party, gave the currency even further momentum.

Ramaphosa pledged to clean up governance, deal with high unemployment and improve basic services, igniting a wave of optimism. But the recent poor economic data has eroded some of the enthusiasm in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

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How South Africa is tightening its tobacco rules

JOHANNESBURG (eNCA.com) – South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has published a new tobacco control bill which, if passed into law, will tighten the grip on how cigarettes and other tobacco products are sold, marketed and regulated in the country.

The Conversation Africa’s Health and Medicine Editor Candice Bailey asked Catherine Egbe about what it means for tobacco control.

What’s significant about South Africa’s pending tobacco control legislation?

There are five key areas of tobacco control that the new bill seeks to address:

a smoke-free policy,

plain or standardised cigarette packaging,

regulating e-cigarettes,

points of sale marketing, and

removing cigarette vending machines.

Some are addressed in South Africa’s current tobacco control law. But the country still doesn’t fully comply with the standards set by the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. South Africa signed the convention in 2005.

Smoke-free public places is one example. The current law bans smoking in public places but allows for designated smoking areas in places like bars, taverns and restaurants provided that they do not take up more than 25 percent of the venue.

The WHO’s convention calls for 100 percent smoke-free public places to protect non-smokers fully.

In line with this, the new bill calls for a 100 percent ban on smoking in public places. It will also ban the advertising of cigarettes and other products at tills or selling them in vending machines.

The health warnings on cigarette boxes and other tobacco product packages is another example. The current law allows for text health warning on 20 percent of the package. But the convention calls for a minimum of 30 percent and encourages countries to have the more effective plain or standardised packaging with graphic and textual warnings in place.

So the new law mandates standardised packaging with graphic health warnings to make tobacco packages less attractive to new smokers and to discourage old smokers from continuing to smoke.

The bill is also significant because it attempts to regulate e-cigarettes for the first time in South Africa. To date e-cigarettes have been freely marketed and sold anywhere to anyone, including children.

Is there evidence that the planned interventions will work?

There’s a great deal of evidence from the rest of the world.

Let’s start with smoke-free policies. In countries like South Korea and the US where they are in place, research shows that they led to an overall improvement in health, particularly children’s health.

Incidents of smoking-related cancers went down and there was a reduction in childhood smoking. There was also an increase in the number of smokers saying they want to quit.

When it comes to packaging, studies show that it encourages smokers to quit and discourages young people from wanting to start smoking. Plain packaging was first introduced in Australia in 2012.

E-cigarettes are still a relatively new factor. But research is already casting doubts on various claims made about them. First introduced in China in 2004 they were initially mooted as an aid to quit smoking. But research shows that they in fact encourage young people to start smoking cigarettes. And 18 studies have shown that e-cigarettes do not reduce quit rates. Instead, the latest research shows that they do the reverse – they reduce the quit rates of smokers intending to quit by about 66percent.

There are 83 countries that regulate e-cigarettes and about 27 that have completely banned their sale. These include Brazil, Singapore, Uruguay, Seychelles and Uganda.

The advertising, promotion and sponsorship of e-cigarettes are regulated or prohibited in 62 countries.

Why is it important to have a legislation like this?

Tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world. Smoking also worsens TB and HIV treatment outcomes. Yet 37 percent of South African men and 6.8 percent of South African women aged 15 years and older use tobacco .

Before the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, South Africa was a leader in tobacco control in Africa and across the world because of strong tobacco control legislation it had put in place. But the laws weren’t updated according to current WHO’s standards and the country now lags behind some other African countries.

The new legislation will place South Africa on the right path. Apart from saving millions of lives, it will ensure that South Africa fulfils its obligation as a party to the WHO convention.

There are several benefits to having strong legislation.

Firstly, it will protect millions of South Africans who don’t smoke but take in secondhand smoke from those who do. They face the same health risks as active smokers.

Secondly, it will also help encourage people to quit and live healthier lives and discourage young people from starting.

And thirdly, the tobacco industry views young people as replacement smokers. Strong legislation will prevent young people from being manipulated by the tobacco industry.

What are the next steps?

Once the bill becomes law, the health minister will have to draw up several regulations to guide its implementation. These will ensure that the law is interpreted correctly and not manipulated by the tobacco industry and that the potential gains of the legislation are not watered down.

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South Africa’s Zuma makes second court appearance on corruption charges

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – Former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was ousted by his own party in February, appeared at the Durban High Court on Friday for the second time on corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal in the late 1990s.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to the deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.

State prosecutors and Zuma’s lawyers presented arguments over a start date for the trial, a rare example of an African leader being held to account for his actions.

Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo adjourned the case to July 27 for the state and the defense to indicate whether they can commence the case. The matter will be heard in the nearby city of Pietermaritzburg to allow for renovations at the Durban court.

“There are still some applications to be launched,” he said, adding that it was still too early to say when a trial could start. Lawyers for the state said they were still ready for a trial to start in November.

Zuma, clad in a dark suit and red tie, shook hands and laughed with his supporters as he left the court. Outside, hundreds of supporters sang his name and waved placards.

The national prosecutor this week turned down a request by the 76-year-old to delay Friday’s hearing pending the outcome of a separate legal challenge over the state paying his legal fees.

The speed with which prosecutors have moved against Zuma is a sign of his waning influence since he was replaced as head of state by Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy, four months ago.

Ramaphosa has made the fight against corruption a top priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy.

Zuma’s supporters say the former president, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

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South Africa’s Central Bank Claims Success in Blockchain Payment Trial

SOUTH AFRICA (coindesk) – South Africa’s central bank has announced what could be argued are astonishing results for a trial of its blockchain-based system for interbank clearance and settlement.

According to a statement released Tuesday, the South Africa Reserve Bank (SARB) said it has completed a 14-week “realistic” proof-of-concept that managed to settle the country’s typical 70,000 daily payment transactions within two hours, taking an average of 1–2 seconds for each transaction – and all while preserving full anonymity.

Based on a detailed report published by the SARB on Tuesday, the pilot saw participation from members of a consortium of banks, including Absa, Capitec, Discovery Bank, FirstRand, Investec, Nedbank and Standard Bank.

Still, SARB stated in the report that the success of its proof-of-concept doesn’t mean it plans to replace the existing real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system with a live blockchain implementation. For that, more study is needed, the central bank said, and relevant regulatory and compliance systems would need to be in place.

The bank said in the report:

“Key considerations that need to be addressed include the evaluation of supporting frameworks and other systems that integrate with the RTGS system, as well as the legal, regulatory and compliance factors. … A fully live DLT-based payments system is not currently planned in South Africa.”

As previously reported by CoinDesk, SARB first announced the trial of the project, dubbed Khokha, in February, in partnership with ethereum startup ConsenSys. The payment platform is built on top of Quorum, the enterprise blockchain platform developed by investment bank JPMorgan.

South African rand via Shutterstock

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