News in South Africa 14th February:
1. SONA delivered over an hour late:
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his fourth State of the Nation (SONA) address on Thursday, two years after he was first elected as president of the country.
The highly anticipated speech was delayed by more than 90 minutes after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) disrupted proceedings, demanding that former apartheid-era president FW de Klerk leave the assembly, and also that public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan be fired for the load shedding crisis at Eskom.
Ramaphosa delivered the speech in an increasingly difficult environment where rolling blackouts have become the norm, and unemployment grew to the highest levels on record.
The address itself didn’t contain a groundbreaking announcement, but confirmed previous initiatives and announced that business, government and labour are working on a social compact to save Eskom.
2. Eskom offering voluntary retrenchment packages:
Cash-strapped Eskom will start offering a voluntary retrenchment package to managers in non-core operations, as well as employees over the age of 60 across the group.
In a communique sent to all group executives on February 6, Eskom said that the window for applications will open in the third week of February 2020, with employee exits planned for the end of April 2020.
Last month Eskom’s new CEO, Andre de Ruyter, told Fin24 there would be no forced retrenchments at the beleaguered power utility. “The president [Cyril Ramaphosa] has been very clear that there will be no forced retrenchments at Eskom, and that mandate is very clear and we will obviously respect that,” he told Fin24 in late January.
3. No load shedding today:
Eskom says it is not planning to institute rotational power cuts on Friday as it has seen a “number of improvements in the power system”.
However, in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, it did not yet indicate what the outlook might be for the weekend.
Unplanned outages were slightly higher at 10 494 MW at 16:55 on Thursday due to the fact that the power utility had lost some generating units – however, there had been no load shedding scheduled on Thursday, the day of the crucial State of the Nation address, and no further cuts were expected the next day.
4. New mining data:
New mining production data, for December, showed a 1.8% increase – after economist expected a decline.
5. UK minister of finance resigns:
The UK minister of finance, Sajid Javid, resigned unexpectedly yesterday – weeks before he was supposed to deliver his first Budget. Prime minister Boris Johnson reportedly required that Javid fire his team of aides.
Javid’s exit comes after months of tensions between his team and Johnson’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, who had wanted more control over economic policy and spending plans.
It marked the most dramatic moment in a ruthless reorganisation of the cabinet in which ardent Brexiters were brought in at the cost of ministers perceived as being disloyal or disobedient – silencing doubts over Cummings’s continuing importance to the Johnson project.