The video below highlights the devastating effects of gang violence:
-Additional reporting by SABC News.
Red tape thwarts South Africa’s green energy potential
4 June 2020, 10:16 AM
World-leading renewable companies are lining up to invest in South Africa’s energy sector and help remedy a chronic generation shortfall that pushed the continent’s most advanced economy into recession, even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
But their investment proposals are on hold as red tape and political considerations delay procurement, undermining a government pledge to prioritise wind and solar generation.
Indebted state utility Eskom’s coal-fired stations, which produce more than 80% of South Africa’s electricity, have long struggled to meet demand, culminating in rolling blackouts that last year hobbled industries central to the economy.
Based on the government’s plan to add 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of as yet unprocured wind and solar capacity in 2022, the next auction could attract more than $2 billion in investment, a Reuters analysis of industry estimates found.
Billions more could flow if procurements happen regularly, contributing to much-needed economic development when the new coronavirus has exacerbated budget constraints.
“South Africa has a brilliant solar resource, and there is a lot of international and local interest,” said Wido Schnabel of Canadian Solar, which hopes to supply new projects. “Why are we still waiting?”
When it launched its first renewables auction in 2011, South Africa was at the vanguard of clean energy converts, Anton Eberhard, a University of Cape Town professor, said.
Six years after the last procurement round, “South Africa is falling behind,” said Eberhard, who has advised President Cyril Ramaphosa on reforming Eskom.
“There is no question. Engie would bid for both solar and wind,” said Mohamed Hoosen, Chief Africa Power and Gas Officer for the French power company.
Italy’s Enel Green Power will also consider bidding if tender and market conditions are as favourable as in the past, a spokesperson said.
In an energy plan in October, the government aimed to increase installed wind and solar capacity roughly sixfold to more than 26 GW by 2030.
More than seven months on, none of the new capacity has gone out to tender.
Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said in February he was seeking the agreement of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) for procurements.
But in March, Nersa said it needed around six months for its electricity subcommittee to make a submission and to consult the public before it could make a decision.
Even 2 000 megawatts of “emergency procurement” identified as a priority and given a green light by Nersa last month has yet to happen.
The Department of Energy told Reuters the law was clear on how procurements should take place and it was following established procedure.
A spokesperson declined comment when asked whether red tape was holding up procurement, while a Nersa spokesperson said its rules were designed to ensure installations were safe.
Mining companies, as major energy users and a plank of South Africa’s economy, have been lobbying the government via an industry association to ease regulations so they can build their own large solar plants.
These could greatly ease the strain by ensuring power for their own operations, as well as generating surplus supplies for the grid, while appeasing shareholders concerned about the miners’ carbon footprint.
But companies, including Sibanye-Stillwater and Gold Fields say regulations and uncertainty over costs are delaying their plans.
Although the Department of Energy tweaked the rules for small generators in March, it maintained strict licensing requirements for plants over 1 MW.
Sibanye wants to add up to 150 MW of solar capacity, while Gold Fields is aiming for 40 MW.
The department told Reuters the rules “effectively enable companies to generate their own power”.
A spokesman for industry group the Minerals Council said the March amendment “was not intended to deal with self-generation on the scale that mines are seeking”.
Not all the obstacles are bureaucratic. Analysts blame the governing African National Congress’ (ANC) close ties with organised labour for its reluctance to unleash renewables.
During a press briefing earlier this year, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said his department knows nothing about available renewable energy:
Unions – heavily represented at Eskom and in the coal mines that fuel its power plants – have resisted renewables because they fear they could cost coal miners their jobs. With unemployment at 30% even before COVID-19, the ANC is alive to those concerns.
“The renewable energy sector is allowed space as well to grow. But it’s allowed space to grow without killing coal,” Sello Helepi, a senior advisor to the Energy Department, told Reuters.
Helepi noted there had been few renewables projects in Mpumalanga province, the country’s coal-mining heartland and an ANC stronghold.
“Let’s say hypothetically we switch off coal-fired power stations, what are we saying to the people of Mpumalanga?” he asked.
An ANC spokesperson did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
Proponents of renewables say additional clean energy capacity would not threaten coal jobs directly and that the government’s reticence could stifle employment in a new sector.
Max Bögl, a German construction firm that manufactures wind towers, told Reuters it was interested in establishing production in South Africa that could create around 400 direct jobs.
But it awaits the government’s next move, said Bruno Geadas, a company official who visited South Africa several times last year to evaluate investment prospects.
“We are waiting for another level of commitment,” he said.
BEMAWU concerned over reports of 6 recent cases of COVID-19 at the SABC
4 June 2020, 6:07 AM
The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (BEMAWU) has reacted with concern to reports that the SABC has confirmed six recent cases of COVID-19.
These were found at the corporation’s offices in Auckland Park, Seapoint and Port Elizabeth.
BEMAWU President Hannes du Buisson says it’s worrying that one of the positive cases was responsible for the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We are obviously concerned about the high incidents of COVID-19 that have been reported at the SABC. We understand that the SABC is an essential service and it is, therefore, a high risk service that is currently being legislated to be able to operate.”
“We believe that the SABC is busy bringing unnecessary people to the workplace for disciplinary enquiries. We received information that a manager tested positive. This manager was responsible for packing PPEs. The COO has launched an investigation,” added Du Buisson.
The SABC said the latest cases were found in the last five days.
Acting SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo says precautionary measures have been put into place.
“The SABC can confirm 6 cases of COVID-19, at our Sea Point, Port Elizabeth and Auckland Park offices. As a precautionary measure, all SABC protocols as per the Department of Health directives have been implemented including employees occupying the offices being advised to self-isolate. Management has put in place business continuity measures and employees will continue to discharge their responsibilities remotely whilst in isolation.”
In the video below, the SABC confirms news of the latest cases:
Lesotho’s former first lady arrested in murder case
In the interview below, Majoro outlines plan to restore Lesotho’s political stability:
-Additional reporting by SABC News.
US to rollout e-labs for improved COVID-19 management in E Cape
3 June 2020, 12:04 PM
The United States of America is planning to roll out e-labs to reduce turnaround times for COVID -19, HIV and TB tests, to provide data management for hospitals and health facilities in the Eastern Cape.
This emerged during a meeting between Eastern Premier Oscar Mabuyane and US Consul General, Virginia Blaser.
The rapid rise of infections in the province significantly slows down the turnaround time for test results.
The province has the second number of highest number of COVID-19 infections, with 4 324 cases and 82 deaths.
The moving map below shows South Africa’s COVID-19 stats as at 02 June, 2020:
Blaser says this is the joint venture between the USA and the Eastern Cape government to improve the lives of people in the province.
“Finally the US has committed to donate 1000 ventilators to South Africa and we are working now to respond to the needs of the individual provinces to ensure that these life saving devices are deployed where and when they need to be.”
In the tweet below, Blaser further outlines how the United States can support the province:
Mabuyane expressed his appreciation and says this collaboration demonstrates the importance of solidarity to save lives.
“So the work continues. We have to join hands and make sure we succeed. We have to defeat this virus. We are trying our level best to disrupt its transmission. If we allow it and allow the numbers to continue as they are, the virus will overwhelm us and collapse our health care facilities.”