News in South Africa 5th August:
1. Stage 2 loadshedding continues:
A major delay in restarting Eskom’s Koeberg unit 2 is largely to blame for load shedding rearing its ugly head again, just 11 days after it was suspended.
Energy expert Chris Yelland notes that the failure to synchronise the unit to the grid is responsible for one whole stage of load shedding.
The unit was taken offline at the start of the year and was supposed to be back online in June. However, it’s still not up and running four days into August.
Solidarity to assist Eskom:
Solidarity has issued a list of skilled power experts to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter, following a request by the former to draw up such a list to help to address the crisis at Eskom.
The trade union said that approximately 300 experts on its shortlist have approximately 5,500 years of combined experience in the industry, and in excess of 400 accredited qualifications of which 14 are doctorate degrees in engineering and related fields.
“This list contains some of the country’s leading experts in the field of power. We are astonished, not only by the wealth of expertise and knowledge these individuals offer, but also by their willingness and eagerness to tackle South Africa’s power crisis,” said Solidarity chief executive Dr Dirk Hermann.
“Among them are also numerous persons who work as qualified international project managers, and they are also internationally sought-after specialists in their field.”
The union wrote to Gordhan in May 2022, offering to assist with the shortage of institutional knowledge and experience impacting Eskom’s power station operations.
Gordhan replied to Solidarity in July asking the labour union to draw up a list of engineers and other workers to assist with the company’s skills shortage.
Solidarity said that the specialists it represents have the knowledge and skills to stabilise Eskom. “It is of the utmost importance that all stakeholders buy into this and recognise the extent of the crisis,” Solidarity said.
2. Strikes in motor industry:
The possibility of a strike in the motor sector has increased significantly after a two-day Motor Industry Bargaining Council (Mibco) dispute resolution committee meeting with unions and employers failed to break the deadlock in negotiations over a new agreement.
The sector employs about 306 000 workers nationally, with the motor retail, fuel and automotive component manufacturing sectors falling under the Mibco.
Any strike in the automotive component manufacturing sector is likely to have a knock-on effect on vehicle manufacturers and, depending on the duration of any strike, force locally based vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to suspend production because of a shortage of components.
Union Numsa has threatened to mobilise its workers in the sector – representing 57,000 workers – and strike if its demands aren’t met.
Unions demand a 9.5% to 12% increase in wages. Employers are offering between 3% and 4%.
3. Investors keen on renewables:
US investors with more than $1 trillion of assets under management are in South Africa to look for investment opportunities.
The visit is facilitated by USAID and Prosper Africa, the US government’s initiative to increase trade and investment between African nations and America, started Tuesday and will coincide with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip. Blinken arrives in the country Sunday – his second official trip to Africa.
He will also visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
South Africa, the world’s 13th-biggest source of greenhouse gases, will need to spend $250 billion over the next three decades to fund the closing down of coal-fired plants and the development of replacement green energy such as wind and solar, according to a report released in May.
The world’s richest nations at COP26 in Glasgow in November pledged just $8.5 billion in climate grants and concessional loans to the nation.
“There’s not enough public resources in donor budgets and in local budgets, for example, in South Africa to solve the climate crisis,” Cameron Khosrowshahi, senior investment adviser for Prosper Africa, said in an interview Thursday. “There’s going to need to be a scaling up of private capital alongside public capital in order to meet the challenge. And that’s part of the reason why we’re here.”
The US is trying to deepen its ties with Africa and counter China’s influence, the continent’s largest trading partner and bilateral creditor.
4. Assessing effects of vaccines:
THE South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said that thorough assessment of all severe reported side effects following coronavirus inoculation was ongoing.
The regulator on Thursday announced that a patient had died after developing Guillain-Barré Syndrome post-vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
To date, more than 9.1 million doses of the J&J jab have been administered in South Africa.
Sahpra CEO Doctor Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela said that the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (Nisec) conducted the cause of death.
“Nisec follows a very thorough methodology that is guided by the WHO and this is a methodology that is utilised by all regulators across the world,” Semete-Makokotlela said.
Sahpra board chairperson, Professor Helen Rees, stressed that they had to inform the public about the death, even of an increased risk of a very rare side-effect following vaccination.
“… in this case, the Guillain-Barré Syndrome and that had already been noted as a risk and is in the professional information. If we see that risk, we need to let the public know. But we need to say is it risk this size or is it a tiny risk this size? What is the risk of the disease itself?”
Just over 6,200 adverse events following coronavirus vaccination, which varies from being mild to severe, have been reported to Sahpra.
5. Covid could lower fertility rate:
The Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn could result in a drop in South Africa’s fertility rate, says Stats SA in its Mid-year population estimates report.
The report, released last week, provides estimates of the population of SA and includes current indicators of fertility, mortality and migration.
“The impact of Covid-19 on conception and subsequently the expected births post-2020 is anticipated to decline given the escalation in economic uncertainty.”
Though the report said empirical data on fertility in SA will only be reflected in the recorded live birth occurrences and registration of 2021 and the nine months after, there is a wealth of studies showing that in uncertain times people become more prudent about having children.
One study of 22 developed countries, for example, found a decline in immediate fertility with higher unemployment among men and women, when faced with economic uncertainty.
In SA, the pre-Covid-19 unemployment rate increased 3,4 percentage points from 29,1% in the fourth quarter of 2019, to 32,5% in the fourth quarter of 2020.
By the fourth quarter of 2021, the official unemployment rate further increased to 35,3%, but declined in the first quarter of 2022 to 34,5%.