News in South Africa 7th September:

1. Worst areas for crime in SA:

Although crime ticked downward in South Africa in the first quarter of 2023, the numbers still remain alarmingly high, with several neighbourhoods highlighted as being more dangerous than others.

Worst areas for crime in SA
Photo by cottonbro studio

The latest South African Polic Service (SAPS) crime stats from April to June 2023 show a positive turn for many of South Africa’s more problematic crime categories.

Violent crime like murder is tracking lower in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, with 6,228 murders recorded compared with 6,424 murders in the previous period.

Sexual offences are also down 2%, while carjacking has also eased, down 6.4% year-on-year.

However, while these crime categories are not as bad as they were in Q1 2022/23, the numbers are still alarmingly high. 6,228 murders over a period of three months is a staggeringly high number, averaging 68 murders a day in the country.

Other violent crimes – such as attempted murder, common assault, and assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm – also tracked higher over the period, leading to the contact crimes category jumping by 4.8%

More positively, the contact-related and property-related crimes categories tracked lower over the quarter, with South Africa seeing a significant drop in robberies at non-residential premises and burglaries at homes.

Worst neighbourhoods in South Africa

Included in the SAPS report are the top 30 areas across South Africa that reported crimes under the 17 Community-Reported Serious Crimes, highlighting the most dangerous areas regarding four main categories of crimes in the country – Contact Crimes, Contact Related Crimes, Property Related Crimes and Other Serious Crimes.

These categories include sub-category crimes such as murder and attempted murder, assault and theft, robbery aggravating circumstances, carjacking, assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, and all types of sexual offences.

According to the data, 371,368 of these types of crimes were reported between April and June 2023. This is a year-on-year increase of 2.2% and works out to roughly 4,126 being committed per day in South Africa.

Provincially, most of these crimes were committed in Gauteng (27.9%), followed by the Western Cape (19.1%) and Kwa-Zulu Natal (15.7%) – which is unsurprising given the population distribution of these three provinces. However, KZN saw the biggest YoY increase of 4.7%, followed by Gauteng (4%) and Mpumalanga (3.8%).

2. ‘System glitch’ stalls social grant payments:

A technical glitch on Postbank’s payment system left thousands of pensioners across the country without their grants on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Grant recipients could not access their money from retailers and ATMs. The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) said payments through Post Office branches were not affected.

After the SA Post Office took over the payments of social grants, Sassa and the Post Office urged beneficiaries to collect their grants at retailers and ATMs on payment days to avoid long queues outside post offices. But several glitches have affected grant payments.

GroundUp was contacted on Tuesday by pensioners waiting at retail stores and ATMs in Blue Route Mall in Tokai, Cape Town, to collect their grant. When we arrived at midday, we were told at the stores that “the system was offline”. Scores of elderly people were waiting in long queues.

Provincial Sassa spokesperson Shivani Wahab said the “glitch” had only affected pensioners who withdraw their grants at ATMs and retailers. She said transactions made with the Sassa gold card within Post Office branches were not affected..

Wahab said: “Sassa was advised by Postbank of intermittent technical issues experienced with social grant payments today.”

3. Energy bounce-back scheme ‘too little too late’:

Touted as a much-needed solution for small businesses and households that have suffered through South Africa’s 15 years of erratic power supply woes, the government’s entry into the solar funding fray has come a little too late, experts say.

Through National Treasury, the government finally launched the much-awaited Energy Bounce-Back Loan Guarantee Scheme last month, aimed at alleviating the impact of load shedding on small businesses and households.

Treasury’s scheme aims to generate 1 000 megawatts (MW) in additional generation capacity over a 12-month period and is complementary to the tax incentive measures announced earlier this year, allowing applicants the opportunity to qualify for both.

But, with South Africa’s banking groups and other niche financiers having been the first movers in financing the solar needs of businesses and household clients, with some of the latter having been forced to come up with solutions and build resilience against load shedding without government’s intervention, the scheme is late to the party.

Willie Cronje, a professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s Electricity and Information Engineering department, is of the opinion that while the scheme is laudable, it has come ‘too little too late’ and its effectiveness is questionable.

Bank involvement

The scheme, administered through the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb), will see the government assume initial losses of 20% while other participating financing institutions assume the remaining losses. South African banks participating in the energy loan scheme have been confirmed as Standard Bank, Absa, FNB and Nedbank.

Standard Bank South Africa CEO Lungisa Fuzile sees the scheme as a mechanism that will ensure more inclusivity, saying it will be more beneficial for low-income households whose affordability is limited to smaller iterations of solar equipment.

“The bounce-back scheme is a very good initiative in a sense that what it seeks to do is to make sure that everyone has a chance to have these renewable energy rooftop solar systems. Because as you can imagine, low-income households can afford smaller versions of these things, and for them, the proportion that would be covered by that rebate or subsidy of the total price will be bigger relatively speaking,” said Fuzile at the bank’s recent results presentation.

4. Upcoming budget cuts:

The National Treasury has made it clear that the big tax revenue overruns of the past two years have come to an end and that the mini budget in October will unveil cuts to government spending because public finances are in a perilous position.  

Since the Treasury has taken this position, criticism has come thick and fast, with academics and civil society organisations warning that cuts to government spending will negatively affect the delivery of crucial public services.  

When Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana unveils the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement on 25 October, he is expected to announce cuts in the already hollowed-out provincial budgets in areas of health, education and criminal justice. 

Michael Sachs, from Wits University’s Public Economy Project and a former head of the Treasury’s budget office, said the soon-to-be-announced budget cuts are a continuous move by the Treasury, with reductions of crucial service delivery programmes persisting over the past decade. 

“If we defund these things [health, education and criminal justice], it will undermine the growth of the economy and undermine the development of society,” said Sachs on Wednesday at a Public Economics Conference hosted by the Treasury.  

The Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), an economic think tank, shares Sachs’ views. 

“Intensifying austerity is in no one’s interest. The poor will suffer disproportionately, women will be worst hit, the state will see its capacity further crippled, and businesses will experience a worsening of economic infrastructure and reduced spending while increasing demands will be made on a shrinking tax base.

“There can be no path out of our economic and social crisis without economic expansion, and the state must drive, not undermine this,” the IEJ said.

The institute has proposed that the Treasury focus on corporations and the wealthiest individuals to ensure that they “pay their fair share through progressive taxation” as an alternative to cutting the budgets of provincial government departments.

5. Eskom hits stage 7 load-shedding:

Eskom cut 6,369 MW from the grid on Wednesday evening, which, according to the power utility’s load-shedding definition, equates to stage 7 load-shedding.

Eskom’s evening peak data revealed that it had 25,001 MW of generation capacity available while total demand was 31,660 MW.

Eskom used twelve open-cycle gas turbines – power stations that use diesel as their primary resource – to increase generation capacity.

It also added 1,416 MW of renewable energy to the grid, which included 973 MW of wind power, 103 MW of solar power, and 340 MW of concentrated solar power.

Eskom’s current load-shedding definition states that one stage of load-shedding equates to 1,000 MW of the national load to be shed.

That means stage 1 allows for up to 1,000 MW to be shed, stage 2 for up to 2,000 MW, stage 3 for up to 3,000 MW, and so forth.

That means that Eskom hit stage 7 load-shedding on Wednesday evening. However, it did not officially announce stage 7 load-shedding.

Energy expert Adil Nchabeleng previously said Eskom has decided not to inform the public when it exceeds stage 6 load-shedding.

“They are giving us the impression that everything is oscillating around stage 6, which is a lie. It is beyond stage 6 when considering the frequency of power cuts,” he said.

Energy analyst Chris Yelland said Eskom’s systems operator receives many complaints from people about load-shedding hours longer than what is specified for stage 6.

“I know for a fact there are certain municipalities are load-shedding certain areas differently to others – you may say in a discriminatory fashion,” Yelland said.

“So, it is happening where some areas experience higher load-shedding stages than what is public knowledge,” he said.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Fin24, Moneyweb, Daily Maverick, and DailyInvestor.

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