News in South Africa 11th December:

1. Eskom warns of load shedding:

Eskom warned on Thursday that while no load shedding was immediately anticipated, there was a “high probability” should any further capacity be lost.

Eskom warns of load shedding
“Power of One” by Stormsignal is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The system was severely constrained, Eskom said in a statement shortly before 18:00.

This was caused by the loss of multiple generation units and high load losses, as well as generation units that were already in planned maintenance – the latter alone amounting to over 7 500 MW. Over 10 800 MW of capacity was out on unplanned maintenance, Eskom said.

Teams were “working around the clock”, it added.

2. Umalusi says exams have to be rewritten:

Umalusi told the Pretoria high court on Thursday that it would be unfair to those matric learners who have to rewrite two subjects that were leaked to wait until February to learn that their results will not be approved.

The quality assurer argued that a rewrite was the only option to ensure the qualifications of the learners are not “questioned or questionable”, considering that the integrity of the two leaked papers has been “irrevocably compromised”.

Judge Norman Davis heard the joint application of several learners and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) today. The applicants’ opposed Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s decision that, following the leak of both the mathematics and physical science paper two, there would be a national rewrite of the two subjects.

The date for the rewrite of maths is next Tuesday (15 December); physical science is set to be rewritten on 17 December.

The parties brought the case on an urgent basis and want Davis to rule that the decision announced by Motshekga is unconstitutional, invalid and should be set aside. They also want the court to interdict Motshekga from going ahead with the rewrite.

Umalusi came under fire from the counsels of all the applicants who alleged that the quality assurer bullied Motshekga into the decision by saying that it would not certify the results of the two subjects. Counsel argued that Umalusi had failed to consider other available options instead of a rewrite.

The court heard that voices of senior management within the department and the Council for Education Ministers — the body comprising the minister education MECs, and the director-general of the department — were opposed to a rewrite. Still, Umalusi had been steadfast that a rewrite was necessary, because the leaks had compromised the integrity of the exam.

Although Umalusi chief executive Mafu Ramoketsi agreed that a rewrite is “inconvenient and disappointing” he said the “the prejudice of which the applicants complain is, respectively, not serious”.

“The inconvenience is, however, mitigated by the fact that at least 11 days of notice of the rewrite was given and the preparations for these papers have already taken place. The inconvenience is incomparable with the prejudice of postponing matriculation of these candidates by a year,” said Rakometsi.

3. Standard Bank coal funding questioned:

Standard Bank says it will continue to fund thermal coal and coal-fired power generation operations under strict conditions since they play an important role in the generation of electricity in the region.

“Energy generation in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is still more than 80% driven by coal fired power stations, so clearly, in that scenario, we will continue to support the generation of electricity,” said Kenny Fihla, CEO of Standard bank Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank Group.

However, Fihla said the bank will provide the support under strict guidelines regarding the nature of the mining operations, their use of coal and how the coal is transported. The bank will also look at additional measures the operations have put in place, to ensure that there is environmental rehabilitation after mining activity.

The bank has previously been questioned by climate groups about its continued funding of fossil fuel projects in Africa, as concerns about climate change rise. But Fihla said the bank cannot stop funding and will instead continue to support coal mining in a responsible manner that emphasises the use of technology that reduces carbon emissions.

4. Chaos amongst SAA employees:

In the latest word on the encounter between the Department of Public Enterprises and unions over South African Airways, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has come out swinging at Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, accusing him of manipulating and misleading workers.

The statement said misinformation relating to a R1.5 billion allocation – over 10% of the R10.5 billion SAA is set to receive to aid its business rescue process – had caused “chaos” among workers.

The airline, which has been in business rescue since December last year, has reportedly been advanced the R1.5 billion with conditions. However, the allocation has been at the centre of a storm over salary payments as unions accused the Department of Public Enterprises of blackmail. Earlier this week, the DPE said it considered an agreement reached with some unions for the payment of three months’ outstanding salaries to be fair.

According to Numsa, the DPE did not request that salaries be deferred by three months. “This was a proposal which Numsa and SACCA put on the table as an alternative to what the DPE, through SAA management, proposed in writing to employees. DPE and the SAA management want employees to accept only 3- months salary plus their bonus, but they must forfeit the remaining 5-months salaries owed to them by SAA,” Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said.

Jim added that despite media reports alleging that payments were set to be made to SAA subsidiaries, there was only enough money allocated to pay SAA salaries in full. “. It would be immoral to take money from one group of workers, in order to pay another,” Jim said.

“DPE is aware of all these issues, but instead of leading and finding viable solutions, the Minister, Pravin Gordhan, is playing chess games with workers’ livelihoods,” Jim said, adding that this was “pitting one group of workers against another” and amounted to “cold-hearted brutality”.

5. Tongaat Hulett improved results:

The embattled sugar producer Tongaat Hulett has reported much improved half-year results.

Salient Features:

  • A pleasing recovery in financial performance reflects progress in the turnaround strategy,
    which includes hyperinflationary effects in Zimbabwe
  • Strong performance across all the sugar operations
  • Sound results from starch and glucose and continued progress in land development, despite
    COVID-19 impact on both these sectors
  • Cash generated from operations increased to R1.3 billion, relative to a cash outflow of R615
    million in the prior comparable period
  • A step-change reduction in debt through the successful conclusion of several asset disposals,
    as well as through reduced costs and working capital improvements
  • Strategic transformational partnerships, while decelerated by the pandemic, continue to be

Group financial results (including the discontinued starch and glucose operation):

  • Basic earnings per share improved by 171% to 166 cents (September 2019: loss of 235 cents)
  • Basic headline earnings per share improved by 156% to 130 cents (September 2019: loss of
    233 cents)

Group results from continuing operations:

  • Revenue up 37% to R8.2 billion (September 2019: R6.0 billion)
  • Operating profit up 95% to R1.9 billion (September 2019: R973 million)
  • Earnings up 108% to R43 million (September 2019: loss of R519 million)
  • Basic earnings per share up 108% to 32 cents (September 2019: loss of 384 cents)
  • Headline loss improved by 101% to R6 million (September 2019: loss of R517 million)
  • Basic headline loss per share improved by 101% to 4 cents (September 2019: loss of 383
  • No dividend was declared in the current period

This was due to restructuring and a “stand-out performance from its sugar operations.

All information sourced from articles posted by: Business Insider, BusinessTech, Fin24, and M&G.

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