News in South Africa 10th March:
1. State of disaster continues:
The South African government is considering extending the country-wide state of disaster, which was imposed in mid-March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, regulating the movement of people, the size of social gatherings, curfews and introducing mandatory mask-wearing in public.
Sources involved in the process stated that there is disagreement over whether these regulations should be immediately brought into effect without public consultation.
There are also concerns that government cannot reintroduce alcohol bans and curfews going forward without a state of disaster in place.
South Africa’s state of disaster is currently set to expire on 15 March 2022. This would make it 24 months since it was first declared at the end of March 2020.
While the national state of disaster was initially set to lapse on 15 June 2020, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.
The government has relied on the regulations to introduce and give effect to lockdown restrictions, which it has used to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ramaphosa has previously indicated that the latest state of disaster extension will be the last, with the government now expected to introduce more permanent long-term regulations to help manage Covid in the country.
In a media briefing on Friday (4 March), health minister Joe Phaahla said his department has been hard at work to formulate new regulations to replace the country’s state of disaster and is now ready to present its proposals to the cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
The health minister said senior government officials are also likely to present policies on vaccine mandates in South Africa in the coming week.
2. OneFarm Share feeds more than a million people:
A food relief project launched amid South Africa’s Covid-19 outbreak uses fresh produce from emerging farmers to combat hunger.
The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened South Africa’s hunger crisis.
The rate of child hunger was nearly double pre-pandemic levels, a year after the country entered a State of Disaster, according to the fourth edition of the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM).
Almost half of all the survey’s respondents indicated that their households had run out of money to buy food in the previous month, with the figure being highest in April 2021.
Around the same time, a project that had first been launched in Uganda in 2019, made its way to South Africa. This initiative, the OneFarm Platform, was started by the Standard Bank Group as a digital business-to-business programme to connect and provide services across the agricultural ecosystem.
The platform was then launched in South Africa, as OneFarm Share, “as a result of the food crisis caused by Covid-19 lockdowns and to help with sustainability of farming operations in the country.”
OneFarm Share, in partnership with South African AgriTech, and HelloChoice, offers a digital fresh produce marketplace, and connects farmers with food distribution organisations.
Surplus fresh produce from emerging farmers – which would usually be ploughed back into the land – is bought through Standard Bank’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) funding.
This provides emerging farmers with financial support, while, at the same time, supplying nutritional meals to vulnerable South Africans through two key distribution organisations, FoodForward SA and SA Harvest.
“Some of the challenges that emerging farmers do have [include] that they’ve got variable quality, and often their produce gets rejected by the formalised retail and wholesale sector,” Grant Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of HelloChoice, told Business Insider SA.
“But it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the food… maybe the sizing is wrong, or the packaging is incorrect, but the food is still perfectly nutritious.”
“So, what we’re able to do is provide a friendly off-taker which makes it possible for them [emerging farmers] to upscale their businesses [and] that’s of massive economic value to them but also essential from a South African food security perspective.”
Commercial farmers are encouraged to donate surplus produce through OneFarm Share.
“We also provide a base for commercial farmers who want to donate but find it difficult to donate excess produce,” said Jacobs.
To date, OneFarm Share has acquired more than 7,000 tons of produce from 327 contributing farmers, which has been distributed, through FoodForward SA and SA Harvest, to almost, 2,000 beneficiary charities across all nine provinces.
These registered charities have, in turn, provided around 28 million meal parcels, feeding more than a million people.
3. Risk of losing investors:
Finance minister Enoch Godongwana says South Africa needs to urgently improve its business and service delivery conditions, or risk losing significant business investments.
This entails reducing regulatory constraints, providing effective services, as well as coordinating and sequencing economic interventions, Godongwana said in an oral response to questions in parliament on Wednesday (9 March).
He added that cities and provinces have an important role to play in creating an enabling environment for investment.
“In the City of Tshwane, for example, we are at risk of losing a potential multi-billion-rand investment by Ford in an electric vehicle plant.
“Ford has already invested R16 billion in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone where it is producing its Ford Ranger model. This is the largest foreign direct investment project our country has seen in recent times and has already created around 8,000 jobs.”
Ford intended to invest further in bringing its electric vehicle production to South Africa. This, however, has been put at risk because the City of Tshwane has been unable and perhaps unwilling to secure the electricity the new plant needs, Godongwana said.
“The Tshwane example reminds us that a deficit of political will at municipal level makes it massively harder than it should be to create conditions for job-rich growth.”
The finance minister added that government must continue with its reform agenda – in energy, telecommunications, rail, ports water and sanitation, as well as in boosting tourism and attracting rare skills into the economy.
“We must act with speed to accelerate the pace of inclusive economic growth and job creation. This must shape all our macro and microeconomic policies and interventions.
“It is only through sustained economic growth that South Africa will be able to significantly reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality,” he said.
4. Eskom can’t afford diesel:
Embattled Eskom will in the near future approach the market for gas to run its diesel-gobbling open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).
This was announced on Wednesday at an emergency media briefing, shortly after the utility told the country that it will be subjected to Stage 4 load shedding until 05:00 on Friday (March 11). Thereafter Stage 2 will apply until 05:00 on Monday (March 14).
Eskom has been in a battle to keep the lights on since the start of the week due to “multiple generating unit failures over the past 24 hours”.
At first it anticipated that Stage 2 load shedding, which lowers demand by 2 000 megawatts (MW), would suffice to stabilise the power system if limited to the hours between 21:00 and 05:00 on Monday and Tuesday night.
The situation however deteriorated as more of its poorly maintained coal-fired units tripped.
According to Eskom head of generation Phillip Dukashe the availability of the coal-fired fleet dipped below 60% with more than 20 000 MW out of service.
Planned maintenance accounts for 5 505 MW of that and unplanned breakdowns for 15 439 MW.
On Wednesday morning Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer told journalists that Eskom is using its emergency reserves faster that it is able to replenish them.
“Stage 4 load shedding will therefore give us the space required to replenish the emergency reserves and continue to manage the system safely,” Eskom said in a statement.
The emergency reserves are pump-storage schemes and the OCGTs. Eskom utilised all 20 of its own OCGT units for an extended time on Monday and Tuesday, Oberholzer said.
Currently they consume a mind-boggling nine million litres of diesel per day, he said, adding that the shipping vessels used to import the diesel typically hold 30 million litres.
Eskom expressed its concern over rising international diesel prices in the light of the war in the Ukraine.
The running cost of each OCGT unit has already increased by 40% to R700 000 per unit per hour, Oberholzer said.
Eskom chief financial officer Calib Cassim warned that should diesel prices continue to rise at the current rapid pace, there will come a point where the pressure on Eskom’s liquidity will simply not allow it to continue buying diesel to keep the lights on.
That may mean either increased load shedding, or government having to further assist Eskom with taxpayer money.
5. Mineworkers striking over wages:
South African mining giant Sibanye-Stillwater dealt a major blow as workers go on an indefinite strike.
Employees affiliated to Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from Wednesday began their protest over wage-related matters at the operator’s Free State and Gauteng gold mines.
The employer and workers have been in negotiations for weeks now with discussions at the CCMA failing to resolve the dispute.
Workers want increases of R1,000 for underground and surface workers and 6% for artisans, miners and officials.
Sibanye has offered workers R700 and 5% respectively.
NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said: “The two unions on Tuesday issued Section 64 of the Labour Relations Act. We are indicating that workers will be embarking on a legal industrial action at Sibanye-Stillwater to halt operations in the Free State and Gauteng.”