News in South Africa 28th September:

1. Matric exams and load shedding:

The KwaZulu Natal Education Department is raising concern over the impact that continual load shedding could have on students’ preparation for matric exams.

Matric exams and load shedding
Image taken by: RODNAE Productions

Speaking to reporters, the MEC for the department, Kwazi Mthethwa, said that at some point this year, the national minister was engaged with Eskom to try and see if it could align its load shedding schedule with the exam timetable.

South Africa has been plunged into the longest period of rolling blackouts in the country’s history, with the national power utility Eskom announcing on 25 September that stage 3 and stage 4 will continue throughout the week.

This follows long stints of stages 5 and 6 with no hope for a stable energy supply in the immediate future. The popular load shedding tracking app, EskomSePush revealed that there has been load shedding for the equivalent of 68 days of this year.

Mthethwa said his department is concerned as trial (prelim) examinations are currently underway, and when they finish at the end of this week (30 September), it will be just a month until final matric exams start.

Matric exams are set to begin on Monday 31 October and continue sporadically until the 7th of December – starting with English and ending with Dramatic arts.

Students are not only affected by load shedding when they are at school writing exams but also when they are at home preparing as power is often required for laptops, internet, lighting and discussing concepts with classmates, he said.

The CEO of the Federation of School Governing Bodies (Fedsas) said that teachers need to plan and teach around load shedding. When a pupil is studying at home, however, those without alternative resources are severely affected, it said.

2. Rand firms to dollar:

South Africa’s rand firmed on Tuesday after slumping to a 28-month low a day earlier as the U.S. dollar took a pause amid some appetite for riskier assets.

Shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange rose, mirroring similar gains in global equities and helped by an uptick in global oil and gold prices as investors took stock after a softening in the dollar.

The rand is currently trading at R18.12/$, R17.32/€ and R19.36/£.

Overall on the stock market, the Top-40 .JTOPI index ended 0.58% higher while the broader all-share .JALSH index closed up 0.63%.

Brent crude oil is trading at $85 a barrel.

3. Lottery theft and corruption:

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on Tuesday said theft and money laundering at the National Lotteries Board amounted to R1.4 billion.

The corruption, which took place over more than five years, was again laid bare in Parliament by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The SIU said it was expected to hand over a first report, related to the theft of R273 million meant for the country’s most vulnerable to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the end of October.

An old age home, a drug rehabilitation centre, and sports facilities were some of the projects started but many were never concluded.

That’s because of a well-oiled syndicate of colluding former board members, officials, and non-profit organisations, who siphoned off grants for self-enrichment.

SIU head Andy Mothibi said two more phases of investigations, worth R246 million and R905 million respectively, would continue well into next year.

4. Jet fuel shortage:

Rough seas are further delaying the arrival of a shipment of jet fuel, worsening the supply crunch at Cape Town International Airport and raising fears of disruptions and possibly cancelled flights. 

It was reported on Monday that Cape Town International only had enough jet fuel stock to last between four to six days after bad weather caused a supply shipment, which was due to arrive in the local harbour last Sunday, to be delayed. 

This shipment was scheduled to arrive at the end of the week. The initial estimate was that supplies would stabilise by 2 October, but according to an airline CEO whose identity is known to News24 but who requested anonymity, the latest estimate for normalisation is likely only by 3 October.

Airports Company SA (ACSA) confirmed on Tuesday evening that, unfortunately, adverse sea conditions continue and could delay the vessel with jet fuel by an additional day.

In the meantime, fuel suppliers have delivered an additional 2 million litres of jet fuel to the airport this week in a bid to alleviate pressure on supplies.

Since ACSA issued the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) last week, airlines and fuel suppliers have been engaging to determine the necessary reductions in jet fuel and to reduce intake, while ensuring continuity of operations.

According to ACSA, the airport currently continues to operate at 4.5 days’ worth of jet fuel stock and it will continue to monitor, engage fuel suppliers and airlines and provide regular updates on the issue.

“ACSA continues to engage fuel suppliers and airlines to prevent the risk of a stock out of fuel and to prevent and minimise flight disruptions,” it said.

But the current rationing of jet fuel in Cape Town is a big cause of concern for the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), which represents most of the airlines in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. AASA expects the rationing of jet fuel will likely result in disruptions to airline schedules and possibly cancelled flights and says the aviation industry and the SA economy can ill afford this.

“AASA appreciates the efforts being made by ACSA to manage fuel stocks at the Cape Town International airport. However, the escalation of jet fuel rations throws into sharp focus South Africa’s vulnerability because of its reliance on imported jet fuel,” AASA said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

It calls on government and fuel suppliers to urgently put in place “a far more robust resilience plan” to ensure sufficient stocks of aviation fuel are always available for airlines.

5. Solar demands on the rise:

Banks are facing an avalanche of inquiries from customers ready to throw in the towel with Eskom and go solar.

All offer a range of financing options, from access bonds and readvances to personal loans and leasing – and many have partnered with professional solar installers to ensure consistency in standards and quality of work.

Standard Bank has launched an online portal and marketplace called Looksee for homeowners looking at improving quality of life and saving costs, with a number of suggestions for saving on energy costs.

These include energy meters, back-up lights, generators, solar geysers, and solar power backup systems. Also included here are geyser controllers and other energy saving products, as well as tips for homeowners such as how to deal with a noisy neighbour, and what water tank is best suited to their property.

Nedbank’s solar partner, Hohm Energy, offers a useful tool to determine what size system you need, given your current consumption and expenditure on electricity.

Steven Barker, head of banking products at Standard Bank, says demand for solar power systems has shot up since load shedding became a daily reality.

See a summary of the offerings from the banks approached by reporters.

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

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