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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 prosecut

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 projec

South Africa’s sprawling cities hold key to Ramaphosa’s land reforms

SOUTH AFRICA (Reuters) - In this one-room shanty in Johannesburg’s Alexandra Township live Dean and his two children. He is among millions of South Africans waiting to own a plot of land they can call home after nearly three decades of promises from a post-apartheid government. “Living in such small space actually, it’s like living like an animal. A dog lives in one room. Your house is like this. That’s why sometimes it just frustrates me. This is not actually for human beings to live in such conditions,” he said.

My eyes are full of tears. They are full of tears but you cannot see them. What is even more hurtful is that all the other places have changed but not Alexandra. This place is cluttered and congested, you can't even see where you are.

Alexandra is home to hundreds of thousands of people crowded into a mix of formal and informal structures. Unemployment here runs at 25 percent and violent crime is rife. During apartheid, the black majority was crowded into urban townships and rural reserves and it was illegal for Africans to acquire land beyond those settlements. Today, while black people make up 79 percent of the total population only seven percent own urban land. Martha Gumede had to send her son to a relative’s house so she and her daughters can have some privacy when they bath in the same place they live. “The house that I am livin

South Africa’s economy contracts at sharpest rate in 9 years

SOUTH AFRICA (Financial Times) - South Africa’s economy contracted at the sharpest rate in almost a decade in the first three months of the year, according to official statistics, underlining the challenge confronting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to revive growth. Gross domestic product in Africa’s most industrialised country dropped 2.2 per cent on an annualised basis during the first quarter as mining, manufacturing and agriculture all recorded marked falls in activity, the statistics office said on Tuesday. South Africa’s economic data have been volatile of late, with GDP rising at a 3.1 per cent rate in the last quarter of 2017 and a feared recession between 2016 and 2017 vanishing from the figures after subsequent revisions. Overall last year the economy expanded by 1.3 per cent versus 0.6 per cent in 2016, the first time growth accelerated in four years. The South African Reserve Bank is forecasting growth of 1.7 per cent this year. But the contraction at the start of 2018, the sharpest slowdown in nine years, underscores the fragility of the economy after years of stagnation during the corruption-plagued presidency of Jacob Zuma, who stepped down earlier this year. Under the weight of several embarrassing scandals, the ruling African National Congress forced Mr Zuma out in favour of Mr Ramaphosa, a trade unionist turned wealthy tycoon who has pledged a business-like approach to government and to root out corruption.

‘Save our wetlands’ – Warning of another environmental threat in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Sowetan Live) - Water purification is one of the primary purposes of the indigenous palmiet wetlands in South Africa‚ but they are in such a critical state that if we don’t act now‚ they may soon disappear altogether‚ an ecologist says. “The protection and restoration of our wetlands should be a national priority‚” said Dr Alanna Rebelo‚ a wetland ecologist and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology at Stellenbosch University. Rebelo recently obtained her doctorate in Conservation Ecology at SU. She said over 65% of South Africa’s wetlands and associated river systems have been damaged and 50% estimated to have been destroyed. "If steps are not taken immediately to restore palmiet wetlands threatened with erosion‚ it is possible that these wetlands will be drained or lost by 2065." Her research focused on the Theewaterskloof and Goukou wetlands in the Western Cape as well as the Kromme wetland in the Baviaanskloof area of the Eastern Cape. Two of these palmiet wetlands are situated upstream of large municipal reservoirs that provide water for Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Rebelo said that of all ecosystems‚ wetlands are considered one of the richest in terms of services provided. “They attenuate floods‚ mitigate water pollution‚ retain sediment‚ provide clean water and food for local communities‚ and capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. They also have valuable pe

South Africa aims for ‘zero carbon’ buildings in green push

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana knows how much cash going green can save. Four years ago, after signing up for “My Green Home” – an effort by the Green Building Council of South Africa to make buildings more energy efficient – her family saw their house in the middle-class suburb of Pinelands retrofitted with energy saving LED lights, low-flow showerheads and roof-top solar panels, as well as winter insulation. As part of the green makeover, the family also learned to cut their energy use by hanging laundry out to dry rather than using a tumble dryer, switching off appliances that aren’t being used, and switching to washing laundry with cold water. “My children were very excited as we got to do this as a family,” Makalima-Ngewana, a consultant at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, told the Thompson Reuters Foundation. Better yet, since joining the programme, her family’s energy costs have fallen by nearly 90 percent, she said. As South African cities aim to battle the effects of climate change, from drought in Cape Town to the threat of rising seas and flooding in Durban, four cities have banded together to try to create zero-carbon buildings, which produce no contribution to climate change in their use of energy. Working in conjunction with the C40 Cities initiative – a group of major world cities trying to cut climate-changing emissions - the plan is to require new buildings in Johannesburg, Cap
A woman dances during a Stop Stock Outs Project activist meeting  in Soshanguve, a township outside of Pretoria on April 16, 2015. The Stop Stocks Outs Project mobilizes activists and people living with HIV or TB to record and report occurrences of stock outs in South Africa.

Country takes landmark step for access to medicines

South Africa (msf.org) - MSF applauds effort to ‘take off patent blindfold’ and change patent laws to increase access to affordable medicines. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) applauds the landmark move by the South African government to release a new intellectual property (IP) policy that will stop the country’s process of blindly handing out patents, providing hope to people across South Africa who cannot afford the medicines they need to stay alive and healthy. The policy, which comes after years of advocacy efforts by civil society through the Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Campaign, is a first big step to amend the country’s patent law in favour of public health. South African patent law currently allows pharmaceutical corporations to easily obtain multiple, undeserved patents on a single drug and charge people exorbitant prices. For example, the country has one of the highest burdens of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in the world, yet high prices have limited people’s access to several key TB drugs. People with DR-TB in South Africa could not access the drug linezolid while it was under extended patent monopoly and priced at over US$49 per tablet. At the same time, generic versions of the drug were available at as low as $8 in many countries, including in India. Two key newer drugs for treating DR-TB, bedaquiline and delamanid, have also faced the same fate, with both already patented multiple times in South Africa, extending t

Have your say on land expropriation in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Times Live) - The parliamentary committee that will review section 25 of the constitution, which deals with property, has invited the public to participate in the debate. The ruling African National Congress wants the hotly debated issue of expropriation of land without compensation to be included in the Expropriation Bill. The bill has been passed back and forth between the Presidency and parliament for the past decade. For it to pave the way for the government to seize land without compensation, it has to be updated to bolster the principle. Although the constitution already allows for land expropriation without compensation if it is "just and equitable", an updated bill signed into law would be the first amendment made so far to the Bill of Rights. The parliamentary committee that will review section 25 of the constitution, which deals with property, has invited the public to participate in the debate through a series of hearings and by engaging the committee. Its chairperson, Vincent Smith, said in an interview with the Parliamentary Monitoring Group last week that the committee wanted all South Africans "to feel free to come and give their views and to be tolerant enough to allow those who have different views to air their views". Having taken into account what ordinary South Africans, policy-makers, civil society organisations and academics say about the issue, the committee will then make recommendations to parliament, in the form of co

Kerry Logistics expands presence in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Air Cargo World) - Hong-Kong based 3PL Kerry Logistics has acquired the services of South African forwarding and logistics company, Shipping and Airfreight Services (SAS), to help expand its presence on the African continent. Kerry Logistics will utilize SAS for its air- and ocean-freight shipment, consolidation, charter, warehousing and distribution services as it pursues its goal to “expand its coverage worldwide.” “South Africa’s economy has an important standing on the African continent, with excellent trade lanes not only to the Chinese market but also the large exporting economies of the European Union,” said Thomas Blank, Kerry Logistics’ managing director for the European region. Over the last two years, Kerry Logistics has been expanding its services in Europe and Asia. In July of 2017, it acquired a 50 percent stake in intermodal brokerage company, Lanzhou Pacific Logistics (LPL), servicing Asia and Eastern Europe, and underpinning its role in the One Belt, One Road initiative – the project forwarded by the Chinese government to promote trade connectivity between Eurasian countries. The company cites South Africa’s growth in automotive production, which accounts for 10 percent of South Africa’s manufacturing exports, as a driving factor behind the decision to partner with SAS.

These are the most complained about insurance products in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (businesstech.co.za) - The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance (OSTI) recently published its annual report for 2017, revealing the most complained about short-term insurers, and the types of insurance vehicles in South Africa that receive the most complaints. During 2017, the ombud said it finalised a total of 9,962 formal complaints, with an average turn-around time of 131 days. It said that it fielded nearly 80,000 calls and recovered a total of R87.1 million for consumers, down from R99 million recovered in the prior year from 8,631 cases closed. The OSTI noted that the bulk of complaints were received in the motor insurance sector, making up nearly half (49.3%) of all complaints, up marginally from previous years. 1 The insurance body said that 74% of complaints in the motoring sector were for ‘accidental damage’. Worryingly, this figure mainly comprised claims rejected on the grounds that the insured was driving under the influence of alcohol. The ombud noted that some insurance companies have introduced measures such as the ‘take me home’ service to manage the risk associated with drunken driving. “However, it is clear from this year’s statistics, that DUI remains a very real problem for the South African insurance industry,” it said. The second highest cause for compl