News in South Africa 15th December:

1. Joburg gets a break from load shedding:

Power utility Eskom says it will give the City of Johannesburg’s City Power a reprieve from load shedding.

Joburg gets a break from load shedding
Photo by Sveta K from Pexels

This follows requests from the city this week for a three-day break from rolling blackouts so it could attend to disaster-struck areas.

“Eskom grants City Power some reprieve from load shedding in areas that experienced a significant loss of electricity in large parts of Johannesburg,” Eskom said.

“The reprieve follows the utility’s request for areas that were severely affected by recent floods and storms, which resulted in the loss of electricity, to be excluded from load shedding.

“Through collaboration between the two entities and in accordance with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa regulations, Eskom was able to assist the city during this period.”

Joburg and parts of Gauteng were hits with heavy rains this past week, leaving authorities to deal with several crises on top of national load shedding.

Joburg mayor Mpho Phalatse said on Monday (12 December) that the city was dealing with “near insurmountable” challenges relating to escalating faults and outages after the heavy rains hit the province this past week.

“While progress is being made with limited resources in addressing the thousands of outages that have occurred since last week’s inclement weather and flooding, continuous rainfall means more faults are being logged every hour,” the city said.

“Given the urgent need for City Power to attend to the widespread and escalating faults, the entity has expressed its concern that load shedding is not only causing additional faults and stress on the network, but also preventing the entity from being able to effectively attend to the outages and to stabilise the situation.”

The city stressed that power lines and infrastructure cannot be worked on when there is no power, and cable theft increases exponentially during blackouts.

Rainfall eased during the course of the week, but thunderstorms are still forecast for the long weekend ahead.

2. De Ruyter resignation:

André de Ruyter’s resignation as Eskom CEO clearly indicates how compromised President Cyril Ramaphosa is.

It shows how his authority within the ANC has deteriorated to such an extent that he is unwilling – or unable – to stand up against senior members of his so-called inner circle, most notably Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe.

His silence was deafening after Mantashe let rip, saying De Ruyter, by allowing load shedding to continue, is “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state”.

His cowardly silence placed De Ruyter in the centre of the ANC ‘s political infighting and hung him out to dry. He had no option but to resign. I don’t think it is a surprise at all.

The job as Eskom CEO, in a post-state capture era, was always going to be about much more than keeping the lights on: it also involves rooting out the entrenched corruption left behind by the Zuma era.

Mantashe also said De Ruyter acted more like a “policeman”, focused on “chasing criminals” rather than attending to technical challenges.

This was probably the biggest revelation of incompetence and misunderstanding of why Eskom is in the mess it is in.

Corruption is at the core of Eskom’s dire position, and rooting out corruption is a crucial necessity for its performance. To blame De Ruyter’s prioritisation of curbing corruption as the reason for load shedding is beyond shocking.

An obvious conclusion could be that the beneficiaries of lawlessness have had enough. After all, virtually all of the political beneficiaries of state capture can be found within the ruling party.

In many ways, De Ruyter’s “removal through inaction” is similar to Zuma killing the Scorpions to allow for undisturbed looting.

What now?

The big question is who will take over, and will this person be able to do a better job than De Ruyter at keeping Eskom and South Africa’s lights on?

It is not going to be an easy task.

3. US pledges billions to Africa:

American firms have pledged billions of US dollars to projects across Africa in the ongoing US-Africa Leaders Summit. Visa plans to spend $1 billion (R17 billion) across all 54 African countries, expanding its footprint and technology platforms in the next five years. Some of the money will go towards local strategic partnerships with governments, local financial institutions, mobile operators, FinTech, and merchants.

Announcing the investment during the summit on Wednesday, the CEO of Visa Inc, Alfred Kelly Jr., said that while there are more than 100 million people in Africa with Visa cards and 2 million merchants accepting them, the financial giant believes that there is still so much more to do in the continent.

“Today, Visa is announcing that we are going to make a $1 billion investment in Africa over the next five years. That investment will go towards scaling our operations across the continent; it will go towards driving innovation in technology,” he said, adding that Africa will be critical to Visa’s growth in the next 50 years.

Prosper Africa, a US government initiative aimed at increasing trade and investment between the US and African countries, committed to investing $170 million – pending funding availability. This money will be invested alongside US and African companies and investors as the organisation plans to mobilise an additional $1 billion investment from US firms. It also announced five new partnerships with African asset fund managers under a new Catalytic Investment Facility.

It will work with Fund for Africa’s Future, Altree Capital, Endeavor South Africa, Okavango Capital, and ThirdWay Partners to invest in small businesses and entrepreneurs that work in the space of climate change and gender inequality, among other things. Prosper Africa plans to mobilise more than $200 million in private capital for that initiative.

Standard Bank and GE Healthcare announced that they will work together to finance up to $80 million of GE equipment to Standard Bank customers across the continent over the next five years, with a focus on South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, and Angola.

Other US companies that announced investment commitments include the ABD Group, which is establishing new data centres across the continent, investing $500 million in the process. mPharma is investing $43 million in Nigeria. US-based startup KoBold Metals and its partners will invest $150 million to support a copper mine in Zambia. Power Africa, in partnership with Prosper Africa, launched a new initiative called the US-Africa Clean Tech Energy Network, which will invest $350 million in the next five years in project-ready technologies that can increase access to reliable electricity.

US Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, said US investors are more interested in Africa, especially after the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) last year. And because of this, relations between Africa and the US will be shaped more by commercial ties than ever before.

“I hear continuously, and increasingly, from US businesses, entrepreneurs and investors, that they are increasingly interested in investing in the African continent. I hear it regularly,” she said.

4. Paramedic safety concerns:

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers in various parts of the Eastern Cape said they fear for their safety ahead of the expectedly busy festive season, as there has been an increase in criminal acts targeted at the workers.

This as Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth on Wednesday launched the festive emergency services campaign in Gqeberha – a hotspot for attacks against EMS workers.

The festive season is one of the peak periods for road accidents, drunk driving, and violent crimes, which necessitates EMS workers to be active and safe.

However, there have been increased incidents of workers being hijacked, shot at, stabbed, and robbed of their personal belongings, with some stopping work in the past year as they fear for their lives.

5. SA’s new Antarctic team sets off:

The South African National Antarctic Expedition‘s 62nd overwintering team is getting on the SA Agulhas II, our third polar vessel, today to head south to our 4th Antarctic base, SANAE IV, on Vesleskarvet, a small mountain, or Nunatak, in Queen Maud Land where they will be staying for just over a year.

Also on board is a support team from the Department of Public Works who do maintenance on the base, diesel mechanics who drive and maintain the vehicles, and various scientist who do research at the base and on the ship along the way.

The year team consists of a doctor, two diesel mechanics, one electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, communications engineer, a senior meteorological technician, and two physicists who study space weather. 

It is hard to say exactly how long the voyage south will take, as it depends on sea and ice conditions, but it usually takes around two weeks to reach the ice shelf, where the hundreds of tonnes of equipment, supplies and fuel is offloaded and driven to the inland base.

While it can be hard and lonely out there, it might also just be the most fun and excitement you’ll will ever have, and in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places on earth. Oh, and you get to see penguins along the way.

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

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