News in South Africa 11th November:
1. Driving licence backlog:
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has revealed that South Africa has a backlog of 320,000 driving licence, with demand growing by 90,000 each month. Mbalula said this backlog is caused by corruption among back-office staff at driving licence testing centres (DLTCs).
Over the past few weeks, many South Africans trying to renew their driving licences expressed frustration with the system.
One of the main complaints is the online booking system, where it is exceedingly difficult to get a slot for licence renewals.
Gauteng MEC for public transport and roads infrastructure, Jacob Mamabolo said government officials who hijack the system are to blame for the problem. He said many slots are allocated to services like new driver’s licence applications, but not to driver’s licence renewals.
While not directly mentioning corruption, Mamabolo hinted at something “dodgy” going on at driving licence testing centres.
The driving licence renewal problems are so severe that the Automobile Association (AA) has called for an immediate moratorium on fining motorists without renewed driving licences.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) wants Mbalula to change the driver’s licence validity period from five to 10 years.
Mbalula said he will consider the proposal to extend the validity of driver’s licences because of the current problems.
2. Ace Magashule corruption arrest:
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is set to be charged with various corruption-related counts this week.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, commonly known as the Hawks, confirmed that a warrant was issued for Magashule’s arrest. He is expected to appear in a Bloemfontein court on Friday.
The charges relate to a controversial R255 million asbestos contract which was issued when he was the premier of the Free State.
The province’s acting director of public prosecutions (DPP), advocate Navilla Somaru, issued the warrant. Hawks Free State spokesperson Captain Lynda Steyn said the DPP signed the warrant on Tuesday.
While uncertainty clouds the process, and the SG says he will co-operate, political analysts say this could lead to a flare up of factionalism within the ANC, last seen when former president Jacob Zuma was ousted from the presidency. The arrest also puts the ANC’s ‘stand aside’ policy to the ultimate test.
3. Global energy progress with major gas find:
Last month French energy giant Total announced it had made a significant gas condensate discovery 175km off the southern coast of SA in what is known as the Luiperd prospect.
This follows the 2019 discovery of an estimated one billion barrels of oil equivalent of gas and condensate at Brulpadda, off the coast of Mossel Bay.
Even before the latest Total discovery, the 2019 Brulpadda find was touted as one of the biggest finds globally, and a ‘game changer’ that puts SA on the global energy map.
An analysis by engineering group EPCM Holdings suggests that the billion barrels at Brulpadda is enough to run all of SA’s refineries at a cumulative volume of 700 000 barrels a day for just less than four years. “Mossgas is the only refinery in SA ready and equipped to run on condensate. So it would naturally be assumed that the condensate will be extracted for use in the Mossgas refinery, which couldn’t come too soon, since this refinery has been on the verge of closing down for the last year or two, due to the dwindling gas resources feeding the facility.”
Add to this a potentially even larger find at Luiperd, and it’s clear that SA’s energy matrix has been radically reshaped. The gas discoveries come at a time when Eskom is having to retire its older coal-fired power stations and reduce its carbon output.
What’s also become clear is how underexplored SA’s offshore basins are. Given the latest find, there’s possibly much more waiting for discovery.
4. New short-dated bond introduced:
South Africa plans to introduce a new short-dated bond to help lower government borrowing costs by lessening dependence on more expensive long-term debt, National Treasury officials told investors.
The Treasury is discussing the possibility of issuing a fixed- or floating-rate short-dated note to alleviate pressure on the yield curve, acting director for debt issuance and management Thembi Mda said, according to two people who listened to the call with domestic investors. They asked not to be identified because access to the call was restricted. Details are likely to be announced in the February budget, according to the people.
The National Treasury’s media desk confirmed by email that the government is considering issuing a shorter-dated funding instrument.
The Treasury plans to reduce projected spending by about R300 billion over the next three fiscal years, mainly by paring a salary bill that’s surged by 51% since 2008 and is now equal to 11% of GDP. The plan risks backlash from politically influential labour groups that are already trying to compel the state to honour a previously agreed pay deal through the courts.
5. 6000 making grabs for farmlands:
In early October, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development announced it was making almost 900 farms available for emerging farmers to lease on underutilised or vacant state land. Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said on Tuesday that 5,838 online applications had been received from cooperatives, companies and individuals. A number of physical applications were also made, which have yet to be tallied.
“We… urge all South Africans to seize this opportunity and submit their applications online or at our provincial and district offices in the seven provinces before the closing date of 15 November 2020,” Didiza said.
Asked if the department now had the capacity to pull this off in a timely and transparent manner, Didiza replied: “Yes, we do and we have also mobilised other stakeholders to ensure that the process is not doubted and is actually transparent.” These other stakeholders include farmers’ organisations, faith-based groups, NGOs and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
“We do need this capacity of individuals who work with us in ensuring that the process is credible, is transparent, and everybody can feel that the matter was attended to. We have also set up independent panels that won’t involve our government officials, who would actually deal with issues of objections and disputes. So there is quality insurance in the processes that we undertake,” she said.