News in South Africa 19th June:

1. Western Cape floods:

Western Cape authorities are bracing for another cold front on Monday as the province has been hard hit by widespread flooding and damage to infrastructure.

Western Cape floods
Photo by DIALO Photography

Humanitarian relief is still being provided to many areas.

The floods have made many roads and bridges inaccessible.

Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, says the cold front is predicted to cause heavy rain in the Cape Winelands and Overberg Districts, potentially resulting in more flooding along the rivers.

“Another cold front is expected on Monday, 19 June, which will result in rain and showers over the Western parts of the Western Cape. The cold front moving in over the Western Cape will generate wave heights ranging between 4 to 5 metres between Alexander Bay and Plettenberg Bay.”

2. Good news for petrol and food prices:

Economists at the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) are expecting May consumer inflation figure to reflect positive news for both food and fuel prices.

In the group’s latest weekly outlook, the BER said that in May, the annual increase in food prices would be muted by the high base of 2022.

“As a result, even though we expect a 0.7% month-on-month rise in food prices, the year-on-year rate should ease towards 12%, from close to 14% in April,” it said.

A similar downward trend is expected for petrol, with the BER projecting the annual rise in the petrol component also to be depressed by last year’s high base.

“In all, headline CPI is projected to increase by 0.2% month-on-month, with the annual rate of increase slowing to 6.4%, from 6.8% in April,” the BER said.

In May, Stats SA reported CPI at 6.8%, down 0.3% from the slight unexpected increase in March.

Nedbank also expects similar figures. In its weekly economic insights report, the major bank said that it expects a marginal decline in consumer inflation to 6.7% year-on-year from 6.8% in April, with prices up by 0.5% month-on-month.

“The acceleration to a much higher level in May last year will likely contain the annual increase in consumer inflation.”

The bank did note, however, that it still expects there to be significant underlying price pressures. These pressures include a shaky and volatile rand, persistent load shedding and poor growth expectations for the overall economy.

3. Drivers licence card machine back in production:

South Africa’s only driving licence card production machine is back in action.

That is according to the Transport Department.

The machine had been offline for the past 3 weeks while it was being repaired.

The backlog for the past five weeks currently sits at 350,000 licence cards.

Government is assuring motorists it has a catch-up plan to address the backlog and it will be cleared by the end of August.

New driving licence coming soon:

The Department of Transport says that South Africa’s new driving licences will be launched before the end of the current financial year. This puts the launch window sometime before the end of March 2024.

The DLCA has previously indicated that the new licence will be aligned closer to international practices, with the new card also allowing for the incorporation of new technologies.

A new driving licence card in South Africa will have improved security features, including biometric data, holograms, and watermarks, to reduce fraudulent licences and improve road safety.

The current driving licence cards will be phased out, with the printing machine that produces them expected to be decommissioned in 2023.

A new system will be introduced with driving licence cards linked to smart-card technology. 

The department confirmed at the end of 2022 that it was working towards a pilot of the new licences between 1 November 2023 and 31 March 2024, while the extension of the validity of the cards was also coming.

The department previously suggested that the current five-year validity of driving licences could be extended to eight years. Current cards will continue to be recognised as valid until 31 March 2029.

4. Declining drinking water quality:

A report released by the South African government paints a grim picture of the country’s water resources and water infrastructure as well as the overall quality of its drinking water.

The Blue Drop Watch Report – an interim report because it only assessed a sample of the facilities across the country – focused on the condition of the drinking water infrastructure and treatment processes from a technical standpoint. It also reported on water quality.

The issues of biggest concern that it identified included a collapse of the country’s wastewater treatment works and a sharp rise in the number of local authorities that are failing to meet minimum compliance standards.

The report records continued overall decline in the status of the country’s water supply services. The findings point to a culture of neglect, non-compliance and systemic collapse. The current cholera outbreak in the country should, therefore, come as no surprise. The interim report shows dysfunctional local municipalities and non-compliant wastewater treatment works.

The systemic collapse has been attributed to poor operation, defective infrastructure, the absence of disinfection chemicals, lack of monitoring and an overall lack of operating and chemistry knowledge.

The report shows that the Department of Water and Sanitation issued non-compliance letters to 244 wastewater treatment works in 2022. But only 50% had responded almost a year later.

The report shows a clear and rapid decline in the performance of local government. But only 43 out of 205 local municipalities have asked for assistance from the department. They are able to ask for financial support and assistance to help with capacity building and skills development.

5. Illegal connections cause two stages of load-shedding:

Illegal electricity connections to Eskom’s grid cause two stages of load-shedding due to additional demand and damage to infrastructure. 

This is according to Mashangu Xivambu, senior manager for maintenance and operations at the state-owned utility, who spoke to BusinessDay about Eskom’s efforts to combat illegal connections.

Illegal connections add unforeseen demand for electricity, making Eskom’s job managing the grid more complex than it needs to be. 

They also risk overloading electricity infrastructure in areas where illegal connections are prevalent. 

Illegal connections cause network faults, and customers switched off during load-shedding suffer unscheduled outages. 

“Customers will be off because we have network faults generated by these illegal connections. The connections are not properly done, not protected, and as a result, the network trips,” he said.

The country would avoid two stages of load-shedding if Eskom could root out illegal connections in Gauteng alone.

However, it has proven difficult for Eskom and law enforcement to remove illegal connections as residents often threaten the safety of the utility’s workers. 

Last week, Eskom technicians abandoned part of their operation to remove illegal connections in Marlboro industrial area for safety reasons. 

People living illegally in an abandoned factory had allegedly connected electricity illegally and threatened to burn down nearby factories if Eskom cut the cables.

For fear for their safety and citing limited law enforcement agencies and a few private security guards who had accompanied them, Eskom technicians eventually abandoned their operation.

Xivambu said when Eskom disconnected the wires, residents usually reconnected them. “Unfortunately, it is a repeated cycle. We remove it today, and the next day they reinstall it.” 

All information sourced from articles posted by: SABC News, BusinessTech, ENCA, Moneyweb, and DailyInvestor.

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