Government reassures foreign investors they are welcome to do business in SA in the wake of xenophobic attacks]]> |||
Johannesburg - Government has moved to reassure foreign investors that they are welcome to do business in South Africa in the wake of the xenophobic attacks that have erupted in the country.
This follows President Jacob Zuma's cancellation of his trip to Indonesia to visit affected areas in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.
SA missions in other countries have also been instructed to brief those governments about South Africa's efforts to quell the violence.
Briefing journalists in Pretoria today, ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster insisted government was on top of the problem, including arresting those involved.
According to government, 307 people have been arrested for various crimes including the murders of the seven people who have already died during the attacks.
“To the countries that continue to invest in South Africa, we want to reassure them that South Africa is a constitutional democracy governed by laws.
“Investors are welcome to do business in South Africa. Everything is being done to restore peace and order,” said home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.
The ministers have also defended how government reacted to the attacks, saying the swift appointment of a ministerial committee to address the problem had to be commended.
Intelligence minister David Mahlobo said they were concerned that some of the images being distributed around the world on social media were not the real images of the current situation.
Some of the images had been manipulated while some were from the initial attacks in 2008.
“Some negativity is emerging because of the false pictures and messages being circulated,” said Mahlobo.
He said so far no South Africans currently living in other countries had been injured as a result of retaliation, including during the stoning of South African buses and trucks near the Lebombo border post.
Business Unity South Africa is concerned that the violence against foreign nationals could have a damaging effect on investor sentiment.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Business Unity South Africa (Busa) on Sunday expressed concern that the violence against foreign nationals could have a damaging effect on investor sentiment.
“In an environment where our economy is experiencing fiscal constraints and where economic growth is not at the level required to create the much needed jobs in order to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) vision 2030, the last thing we need is a further dent on investor confidence,” Busa said in a statement.
“The continued violence against foreign nationals is sending a negative message to the international business community and could potentially affect South African businesses that are operating in the region and the continent.”
While Busa welcome the leadership shown by government, it called for an immediate end to the attacks on foreign nationals.
“South Africa’s political stability makes the country highly attractive to immigrants; South Africa has entered into bilateral and multilateral trade agreements which amongst others facilitate the movement of goods and people into South Africa from the region and the continent,” Busa said.
“While we do not support illegal and undocumented foreign nationals to enter South Africa, we have confidence in our immigration framework and administrative institutions and we believe government should deal with illegal migrants within the parameters of our legal framework.”
Busa is a confederation of business organisations including chambers of commerce and industry, professional associations, corporate associations and unisectoral organisations.
Former mineworkers are ready to battle fund managers in a Gauteng court next month for unpaid pension and provident funds.]]> |||
Cape Town - Former mineworkers are ready to battle fund managers in a Gauteng court next month for their unpaid pension and provident funds.
Cape Town-based lawyer Barnabas Xulu lodged papers at the High Court in Pretoria last week.
The matter will be heard on May 27.
Xulu is acting on behalf of 1 000 former mineworkers but he said he knows of at least 50 000 who are still waiting for their pension and provident fund payouts.
“We know that many of the ex-miners are illiterate and are from remote areas.
“Their rights have never been explained to them by their employers or fund managers.”
Late last year Xulu won a court case against the Labour Department, compelling it to pay former mineworkers their unclaimed unemployment benefits.
The International Monetary Fund's member nations have warned of risks to the global economy from exchange rate shifts and geopolitical tensions.]]> |||
Washington - The International Monetary Fund's member nations on Saturday warned of risks to the global economy from exchange rate shifts and geopolitical tensions as they took note of “moderate” global growth and “uneven prospects.”
While economies in developed countries have strengthened, some emerging nations are being hit by weaker commodity prices and exports, the IMF's steering committee noted in a communique.
With the United States poised to hike interest rates, the panel - speaking for the Fund's 188 member nations - said moves toward “policy normalization” needed to be effectively communicated to reduce adverse impacts on other economies.
It also said the “possibility of lower growth potential” was becoming an important global challenge, a topic the panel's chairman said was central to talks on Saturday.
“I came out of this meeting with a sense of optimism,” the chairman, Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens, said.
“The fact that a lot of the discussion basically rotated around how to increase growth ... and not only discussing risks - I think that was a very good sign.”
The spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, which conclude on Sunday, have taken place amid growing concerns cash-strapped Greece will fail to reach agreement with its European Union and IMF creditors on reforms that would unlock bailout cash and stave off default.
At the same time, risks of a stronger dollar and low commodity prices have hit emerging markets as China's blistering economic growth has slowed.
Low inflation remains a concern for many developed economies despite signs the European Central Bank's quantitative easing program has boosted Europe's ailing economy, and the communique called for easy monetary policies to be maintained where needed.
“Global imbalances are reduced from previous years, but a further rebalancing of demand is still needed,” the communique said. That appeared to echo U.S. concerns over Germany's huge current account surplus.
In the United States, the central bank's moves toward a rate hike have sent the dollar soaring, and officials from nations around the globe warned of the risk of financial and economic disruptions as the path of major central banks diverge.
Canadian Finance Minister Joe Oliver said in a statement to the IMF panel that “among the most significant downside risks (was) the potential for financial instability associated with asynchronous monetary policy in systemic economies.”
While there has been little sign at the meetings of a renewed flare-up in the “currency wars” despite a surge in the value of the dollar against the euro and yen, China's growing economic clout has overshadowed the talks.
Beijing has touted its own development bank, a rival to the established Washington-based institutions, and is pushing to include the yuan in the IMF's currency basket to reflect its economic might.
Thousands marched in German cities in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode standards.]]> |||
Berlin - Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labour and environmental standards.
Opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is particularly high in Germany, in part due to rising anti-American sentiment linked to revelations of US spying and fears of digital domination by firms like Google.
A recent YouGov poll showed that 43 percent of Germans believe TTIP would be bad for the country, compared to 26 percent who see it as positive.
The level of resistance has taken Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and German industry by surprise, and they are now scrambling to reverse the tide and save a deal which proponents say could add $100 billion in annual economic output on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Berlin, a crowd estimated by police at 1,500 formed a human chain winding from the Potsdamer Platz square, past the US embassy and through the Brandenburg Gate to offices of the European Commission.
In Munich, police put the crowd at 3,000, while organisers Attac estimated it at 15,000. Hundreds also marched in Leipzig, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and other European cities on what Attac hailed as a “global day of action” against free trade, though the protests appeared to be largest in Germany.
“I think this deal will open the door to genetically-modified foods here,” said Jennifer Ruffatto, 28, who works with handicapped people and was pushing her baby in a stroller. “Companies will gain from this at the expense of people.”
Helmut Edelhauesser, a 52-year-old from Brandenburg, said he would prefer a free trade deal with Russia.
“The US push for world domination is unacceptable,” he told Reuters. “Obama sends out drones to kill people and wins the Nobel peace prize. This has to stop.”
Marchers held up posters reading “People have a right to food not profits” and “Beware the TTIP trap - companies win, people lose!”
After the excesses of the Gestapo secret police under the Nazis and the Stasi in communist East Germany, Germans are also particularly sensitive to official surveillance. Revelations in 2013 that the US had bugged Merkel's mobile phone provoked outrage across the country.
Merkel has spoken out repeatedly in favour of TTIP, but her coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), are deeply divided. Their leader Sigmar Gabriel, the economy minister and a TTIP convert, has promised a formal party vote on any deal.
The head of Durban Tourism, Philip Sithole, said the city was being proactive in mitigating the effects of xenophobic violence on the local and provincial economy.]]> |||
Durban - The head of Durban Tourism, Philip Sithole, said the city was being proactive in mitigating the effects of xenophobic violence on the local and provincial economy.
However, the tourism industry was reporting cancellations from national and international visitors.
“The impact of the past week’s events is certainly being felt in the tourism sector,” Sithole said. “A number of hotels have reported cancellations. We are also receiving enquiries from tour operators whose clients are worried about coming to Durban.
“The impact of the xenophobic violence is obviously a negative one but there are still question marks around what the impact will be on the tourism and hospitality sector.
“This weekend must be written off as a loss, but the worry is whether the violence will continue next week. If it does, it will have a devastating effect on the city’s economy. Jobs will be at risk not only in tourism, but every sector.”
Sithole said the tourism research division at eThekwini Municipality was compiling statistics to show the true picture of the impact of xenophobic violence on tourism and the stats would be available from the mayor’s office this week.
However, he said his department was coming up with proactive ways to address tourists’ fears.
“We are working on a tourism recovery plan, looking at a range of ways to attract tourists. We already have international platforms for promoting the city and province, and we will be making adjustments to our media offering to reflect the current situation.”
Praneetha Aniruth of the I Love Durban campaign said the violence had cast a shadow over the city.
“We appeal to the citizens of Durban – the biggest ambassadors of our city – to refrain from posting false information, damaging pictures and statuses on social media. These posts incite hatred and fear and create a ‘mob mentality’.
“The people of Durban have been given a platform via I Love Durban to voice their opinion and it is evident that the majority of the citizens of Durban are against the senseless violence. With the exception of a few, recent events have fostered a spirit of ubuntu among our people.
“The attacks have highlighted the socio-economic problems affecting our community. It is the duty of government, business and each and every citizen to help improve the quality of life for all.”
A press release issued on Friday on behalf of the mayor of eThekwini, James Nxumalo, reassured travel industry role-players that the xenophobic violence would not derail the tourism Indaba taking place between May 9 and 11.
“All stakeholders should rest assured that KwaZulu-Natal and Durban are open for business,” said city spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa.
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Dumile Cele called for “tolerance and understanding as we espouse free market principles”. She urged all foreign-owned SMMEs to “engage in constructive dialogue with the chamber in the hope of becoming formally integrated into existing business structures available in the region”.
“Though competition is rife, we believe a harmonious business environment can still be enjoyed in this space,” she said.
Eskom has implemented stage one load shedding for most of Sunday.]]> |||
Eskom has implemented stage one load shedding across South Africa for most of Sunday.
A shortage of generation capacity has been blamed on several units being out of service due to planned and unplanned outages.
This is the sixth consecutic\ve day of power outages as the utility struggles with poorly maintained equipment.
Record low levels of electricity generation capacity this week may be a regular feature of the coming winter months.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Record low levels of electricity generation capacity this week may be a regular feature of the coming winter months, as Eskom pushes ahead with planned maintenance, according to energy expert Chris Yelland.
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said on Wednesday Eskom would depart from its usual practice of doing maintenance only in summer, when demand is lower, as it tries to restore the health of its ageing generating fleet by performing long-neglected maintenance in winter, despite the increased risk of load shedding.
Yelland said since the cold weather increased electricity demand and supply was already constrained, continuing maintenance, though necessary, would lead to more power cuts.
“Of course they’re constrained, because the more planned maintenance they do while we still have these high levels of outages, the more load shedding they have to do, so there’s this balancing act.
“There’s a lot of pressure on them, I’m sure, politically, economically, not to engage in load shedding but, on the other hand, if they don’t do it they won’t have enough space to do the maintenance.”
Yelland believed that even more planned maintenance, which currently removed between 4 500 and 5 000MW from the grid, was needed to catch up and restore the fleet to health.
High failure rates, thanks to deferred maintenance, have contributed to increased levels of unplanned outages in recent years, with as much as 9 500MW being lost this week, on top of the 5 000MW of planned maintenance, resulting in stage 3 load shedding on two consecutive days. “Previously, we had load shedding throughout the day. Now we’re seeing maybe some during the day and some in the evening. So it moves from stage 1 to stage 2, or 2 to 3,” Yelland said.
“That’s because of this change in the load pattern as we move into winter,” he said.
Yelland agreed with Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, however, that the first few months of this year had been characterised by lower-than-anticipated levels of power cutting, potentially limiting the impact on the economy.
Nene shaved 0.4 percent off anticipated GDP growth in his February Budget, citing electricity constraints as a major contributor, but in a written reply to a parliamentary question from the DA’s Dion George this week he said a number of factors complicated attempts to calculate the precise impact on the economy.
“Load shedding and load curtailment has been far lower than initially anticipated at the time of the Budget,” Nene said in his reply, attributing this to depressed global demand, especially for commodities, which affects production in South Africa’s mining sector, and a “faster than anticipated reduction in unplanned outages”.
Yelland said he disagreed with Nene’s assessment that there were fewer unplanned outages.
“I don’t see any marked improvement at all.
“In fact, if anything, things are getting worse – if you look at this last week and the level of unplanned outages, (there were) around 10 000MW of unplanned and about 5 000MW of planned outages,” said Yelland.
“So I would say we haven’t seen a decrease or stabilisation yet of the unplanned break-downs and I’ve also been somewhat disappointed at the level of planned maintenance.”
He said a major contributing factor to lower levels of load shedding was the quicker-than-anticipated recovery of most of the Majuba power station’s capacity, following the collapse of a coal silo late last year.
“They put in place certain emergency measures to operate a number of these units – typically four of the six units could be operated on an emergency basis by putting in interim plans.
“That was perhaps better than initially hoped for, and may have had a positive impact,” Yelland said.
Nene also said households were hit harder by load shedding “as the first stage of demand reduction requires that electricity supply is cut to residential areas”.
This reduced the impact on the mining and manufacturing sectors.
But Yelland said, while it was true there was a new focus on residential users instead of heavy industry in an effort to mitigate the impact on the economy, this masked the damage being done to the commercial and business sectors.
“Embedded within the residential sector, within municipalities, is the commercial sector.
And the commercial sector, the reality is, produces far more per unit of energy… far more added value than the industrial sector.
“Heavy industry likes to give the impression that they are the ones that drive the economy and produce the goods, but the reality is that mining and industry have played an ever-decreasing role in the economy.
“The services, commercial and business sector, is playing a bigger role, certainly per unit of energy they consume.
“So, while you can shed some load in the domestic sector, it has a bigger effect on the economy,” said Yelland.
Western Cape is set to take advantage of the massive growth potential in the halaal goods export market.]]> |||
Cape Town - The Western Cape is set to take advantage of the massive growth potential in the halaal goods export market, worth $2.3 trillion globally and in which the province has already managed to establish a toe-hold.
In the pipeline is a dedicated halaal agri-processing park here, with provincial economic planners preparing the province to better exploit high demand in the multi-billion rand markets of Africa and the Middle East.
This emerges from Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde’s visit this month to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. He believes that while Western Cape halaal products already enjoy some standing internationally, with the right initiatives in place, local producers could make much more of the potential for growth.
Boosting agri-processing emerged as a key feature of the Western Cape’s Project Khulisa, an economic planning initiative aimed at identifying sectors capable of delivering the most growth and job creation, and fine-tuning strategies to promote them.
Winde told Weekend Argus that African demand for halaal products was estimated at $750 billion, but that “only $36bn of halaal-branded products are going into that market, so there’s the demand, but not the supply”.
That was set to change with new initiatives to boost halaal agri-processing and trade agreements with export partners.
“While I was in Dubai, I flew to Kuala Lumpur for a day to attend the signing of a memorandum of agreement between our local agri-processing organisation, Fine Foods, and the Malaysian halaal food industry.
“They are potential investment partners, so the scope for our playing a much stronger role is very big… there are huge possibilities,” he said.
With this in mind, provincial economic planners were investigating a possible halaal agri-processing park.
“This would enable agri-processing factories to form a cluster operating in one space. There’s scope for incentivising business, so that international and local companies will be keener to jump in, and existing companies will feel more confident about reinvesting, particularly in an environment of uncertainty and lack of confidence, given what’s been going on in the country.”
His ministry would “now start doing some business plans and investigation into potential products”.
“We need to see where there are gaps that local producers can fill, and how we can compete, and then make this information available so that entrepreneurs out there can pick up the opportunities and run with them.”
The City of Joburg has a warning for it's residents: switch off when told to do so, or sit in the dark and face higher bills.]]> |||
Johannesburg - If you don’t switch off your microwave, washing machine and kettle for boiling water when told to do so, you will sit in the dark in a gloomy winter evening.
This is what at least 65 000 Joburg residents with smart meters will experience as the City of Joburg wants to remotely switch off those who refuse to change behaviour in their homes.
And those on conventional meters will not only face load shedding but also pay twice as much for electricity in peak periods when the time of use tariff structure approved by energy regulator comes into effect by July 1.
As part of its new load-limiting initiative launched this week, City Power will turn off your lights and unplug your appliances using demand response technology to rein in household demand for electricity.
A pilot project, which involved an initial 84 smart meters was tested in an Aspen Hills estate, south of Joburg, and will be extended to 65 000 smart meters by May 1.
The council is seeking ways to ease high demand for electricity on the grid during the current power crisis to avoid the need for load shedding which is having negative impact on its growth.
But Joburg Mayor Parks Tau admitted that load limiting will not “solve all our (power) problems”.
He said the use of the technology was just one of many other interventions the city was exploring.
Others include a geyser ripple control system and the use of gas/diesel turbines.
“It’s up to you now to understand how much energy your geyser consumes,” he warned.
“Our objective is to ensure that we keep the lights on in Joburg.”
The city now wants all its 300 000 electricity customers to get fitted with smart meters in order to successfully implement the load-limiting technology to remotely monitor the number of kilowatt hours supplied to a household.
The meters will be “load- limited” every time Eskom asks municipalities to load-shed. City Power will be able to do this remotely. Residents will receive an SMS on their cellphones and smart meter devices advising them to reduce their power usage.
If they fail to do so, they will be subjected to a series of 30-second cuts, warning them of a cut-off that could last a few hours, depending on how much Eskom requires.
“If we can all install new smart meters in our homes, load shedding will be history in Joburg,” said City Power managing director Sicelo Xulu. “Each user is different and they will have to test their own appliances and know how much they use to stay within the limit issued for the day.
“At the end of the day, if people use electricity correctly, they will not have to endure load shedding and will also see a big bills reduction.”
During load limiting, basic households appliances such as lights, fridges and television sets can still be plugged in, even if load shedding is in effect in your area.
The City of Joburg will be offering advice to its customers through brochures with guidelines explaining roughly how much power each appliance in your house uses.
Suburbs where smart meters are currently not in place will still face load shedding in May, but those in areas where smart meters are in place will not be affected if they heed the call to unplug “vampire” appliances.