News in South Africa 13th April:

1. Floods ravage KZN:

On Monday, 11 April, more than a fifth of a metre of rain fell at Mbazwana, in north KwaZulu-Natal just about 100km south of the Mozambique border, according to preliminary data from the SA Weather Service’s observation station there. 

Floods ravage KZN
Image taken by: Sveta K

The 206.4mm of rain measured at the Mbazwana Airfield station obliterated its previous record, at nearly three times the 62.6mm that had been on its books. 

It was not the only station to set a new record. Further south, in Riverview, close to St Lucia, another station measured 126.8mm of rain over 24 hours, compared to its previous maximum of 114mm.

For both stations, Monday alone saw more rain than would typically fall over several months.

For Mbazwana, the preliminary rainfall number on Monday on is more than five times higher than all the rain recorded there in March. At Riverview, four times as much rain fell on Monday as in March.

Across the rest of the province, much less rain fell. Early rainfall observations for spots in the rest of the province on Monday came in at:

  • 63mm at Pennington South, on the South Coast
  • 40mm in Virginia just outside Durban
  • 25mm in Greytown in the interior

The wet weather is expected to lift around much of the country on Tuesday, the SA Weather Service says – but not in KwaZulu-Natal, where flood warnings remain in place.

Shipping containers have floated away, and trucks stranded on highways looted, it was reported on Tuesday morning, as Durban was hit by heavy flooding.

Authorities were still trying to assess damage, and emergency services said they were overwhelmed by reports of collapsed houses, landslides, and washed-away roads.

2. Loadshedding continues:

Eskom will implement continuous Stage 2 load shedding from Wednesday morning until 05:00 on Friday. 

This follows two nights of Stage 2 due to numerous breakdowns at power stations. Eskom had initially anticipated carrying on with overnight load shedding for the rest of the week, but more units have now failed. 

“The extension of load shedding is caused by the failure of additional units and the continued shortage of generation capacity due to delays in returning to service three generating units at Camden Power Station and two generating units at Tutuka power station,” the power utility said early on Wednesday morning. 

“Overnight a generation unit each at Medupi, Matla, Kendal and Komati power stations failed while 240 MW of power imports from Mozambique was interrupted, exacerbating the supply constraints.” 

Eskom said that 5 379MW of capacity is not available due to planned maintenance, while another 14 827MW is not available due to unplanned breakdowns. 

3. Debt rising ever higher:

Money used to make the world go ’round, but it seems credit took over this role after consumers spent all their own money. However, one can run out of credit too.

A study has shown that debt levels among SA consumers are rising again, after declining slightly during the months government closed shops for weeks on end in 2020 in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The study by Genesis Analytics, in partnership with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), concludes that over-indebtedness remains a challenge in SA. It found that more than 50% of South Africa’s credit-active consumers can be considered to have too much debt, which resulted in bad credit records for 48% of all borrowers.

It is hard to believe that nearly half of the 27 million adults using credit have difficulty keeping up with debt repayments.

“Over-indebtedness is linked to national economic conditions and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Slow economic growth and high unemployment, coupled with rising prices for food, petrol and other basic goods have had a significant impact on the credit needs of South Africans and their ability to repay debt,” say the authors of the report, concluding that 95% of low-income individuals used debt to pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, transport and other bills.

Genesis Analytics found that the majority of credit-active consumers spend borrowed money to finance necessities. Some 43% of the surveyed population borrowed money to buy food and 11% used debt to buy clothes.

“As expected, this trend is dominant amongst low-income individuals (earning less than R1 500 per month), grant recipients (earning around R1 500 per month) and individuals with informal jobs (earning more than R1 500, but less than R3 000),” says the FSCA report.

“Borrowers in the high income group acquire credit to finance the acquisition of assets such as motor vehicles or to build, purchase or renovate a house; while only 5% of the low-income individuals could invest in the same way.

“The fact that credit is used to cover basic consumptive expenditure or to cope with financial shocks is indicative of the high levels of over-indebtedness of lower income segments and low levels of financial resilience.”

It seems uncertainty and any financial crisis serve to bolster responsible behaviour among consumers, but it only lasts a while – and low-income households remain stressed throughout. Household debt to disposable income decreased after the financial crisis of 2008 and reached a low in 2017, but started to increase again between 2017 and 2020.

In 2008, debt to disposable income was at 86%. It decreased to 72% in 2017. Thereafter, it rose steadily to approximately 77% in 2020, but declined slightly during in 2021.

4. Tenders for nuclear capacity:

Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe made the remarks at the department’s offices in Pretoria during a roundtable discussion with reporters.

We are going to send out the proposals,” the minister said, speaking specifically to the issue of nuclear power. Asked about the timing, Mantashe said: “The sooner the better … we are going to do it.”

Mantashe, who is regarded as a close ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa, has often spoken approvingly of nuclear energy. Last year, meetings were held in St Francis Bay and Jeffreys Bay by the National Nuclear Regulator to discuss the possibility of a new site at Thyspunt on the Eastern Cape coast.

But this is the first clear signal in some time that the DMRE is actively planning to open up the process for bidding. Such a move would come against the backdrop of Eskom’s ongoing woes, concerns about the cost of such projects, safety jitters at South Africa’s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, and moves by the European Union to label nuclear energy as green.

“When you send a request for proposals, you are doing two things. You are testing the applicants of the market, and then you decide on the modalities. There can be someone who will say, we will build it, we will use it, and then give it back to you. That is covering our costs. That is an option,” Mantashe said. 

That would imply a clear element of privatisation in the process, which would hopefully take the South African taxpayer off the hook – not to mention the Treasury, which is trying to contain its debt burden and make the process affordable. 

That is a legitimate concern considering the cost overruns that have plagued nuclear power plant projects elsewhere, most recently in Finland, where the Olkiluoto-3 plant – Europe’s first in almost 15 years – saw costs surge from initial estimates of  of €3-billion to €11-billion, according to the 2019 World Nuclear Industry Report.

And after the debacles of the Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power plants – with their cost overruns, missed deadlines and shoddy performance – there is a reason why load shedding returned this week. South Africa should be aware of the ultimate price to be paid from any megaproject.  

5. Objection against long term lockdown rules:

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted its official objections to the National Health Act amendments which are set to replace the country’s national state of disaster.

The DA’s Michele Clarke said that there are numerous serious concerns with the proposal and it is very clear that the regulations were ‘drafted with the sole purpose of shifting lockdown powers to the minister of health’.

Some of the specific concerns raised by the DA include:

  • The forced quarantine, without the option of refusal, in the event of a positive Covid-19 case.
  • Forced testing and taking of bodily samples, without the option of refusal, in the event of a positive Covid-19 case, or upon the mere suspicion of a positive test.
  • Forced treatment or providing of prophylaxis, without the option of refusal, in the event of a positive test. Currently, the only lawful prophylaxes for Covid-19 are the various vaccines as approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Agency (SAHPRA).
  • Trivial limitations on gatherings and funerals without the need for scientific-based evidence or input will continue to destroy small businesses and the entertainment and restaurant industry.

These regulations will also place undue burdens on employers and various establishments and possibly violate individual rights and freedoms of those persons who test positive for the virus – all while having no demonstrable effects on reducing the spread of Covid-19, Clarke said.

“The truth is that most countries have lifted their regulations entirely as new variants of Covid-19 seem to be less infectious. They have focused on regenerating their economies to limit the serious economic damage the pandemic caused on households.

“In South Africa, unemployment lines keep growing and instead of doing everything in its power to halt the economic decline, the ANC government seems focused on holding on to ill-gained powers. There should be no need whatsoever to return to another National State of Disaster through the Regulations of another piece of legislation.”

All information sourced from articles posted by: Business Insider, Fin24, Moneyweb, Daily Maverick, and BusinessTech.

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