Mabuza defends Ramaphosa over de Ruyter appointment, SAA business rescue

Deputy President David Mabuza has come to the defence of President Cyril Ramaphosa on a number of recent controversial decisions.

Mabuza was speaking at the 4th special national conference of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in his capacity as African National Congress (ANC) Deputy President in Kempton Park on Tuesday.

He said the the decisions to appoint Andre de Ruyter as Eskom CEO and to place South African Airways (SAA) into business rescue were collective decisions, not Ramaphosa’s alone.

ANC deployment committee

Mabuza acknowledged that, as chairman of ANC’s deployment committee, he has been criticised over the “deployment of cadres into strategic positions.”

He said the deployment committee has decided to go on a “retreat” to discuss these challenges.

The Deputy President added, “The recent deployment of Eskom CEO is a case in point, and this is a decision that we took in the deployment committee, all of us.

“And people are now quiet. The only person that is being blamed is the President. The decision to deploy de Ruyter as the CEO is a decision that we took collectively.”

SAA business rescue

He added that the appointment, which some criticised as “anti-transformation,” should be seen as part of the ANC’s “programme” to build a nonracial society.

Mabuza told delegates at the conference that putting SAA into business rescue was similarly a collective decision. Some have criticised it as part of a plan to privatise SAA.

He said, “The decision to put SAA under business rescue is a decision that we took. It’s not a decision of the President.

“We arrived at that decision because of a number of considerations that we took. It is in the best interest of the workers in SAA and is in the best interest of the entity not to close down.”

Mabuza also apologised to the public and the business community for the ongoing load shedding.

“We’re going to tackle all the challenges faced by all our state-owned enterprises together. Some of the decisions that we’re going to take are going to be very unpopular decisions,” he said.

Load shedding: EFF says Gordhan, entire Eskom board must resign

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has demanded the resignations of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the entire Eskom board over the load shedding crisis.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the party said the crisis is a result of Eskom’s “incompetent leadership” and Gordhan’s “interference.”

The state power utility has been implemented stage 4 load shedding for several days now. On Monday, it briefly escalated it to an unprecedented stage 6.

‘Greedy capitalist establishment’

Eskom blamed heavy rains that caused coal handling issues as well as flooding at Kriel power station. A further technical fault at Medupi power station compounded the problem.

The party said, “The EFF believes that the Eskom leadership of Jabu Mabuza and Pravin Gordhan are deliberately sabotaging Eskom so as to build a case for privatisation of electricity.

“The EFF is aware that the current Ramaphosa administration is working with the greedy capitalist establishment to undermine the power generation of Eskom so that they can later sell power stations to the capitalist establishment.”

It called for the appointment of a team of engineers and experts, “including those who have ended load shedding before,” to develop a maintenance plan for Eskom’s power stations.

‘Discontinue IPPs’

It further demanded a discontinuation of renewable energy independent power producers (IPP) agreements because “they add no significant value to South Africa’s electricity needs.”

EFF also spoke against the President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to unbundle Eskom into three entities – generation, transmission and distribution.

“We demand that Mr Cyril Ramaphosa must develop some courage and act against incompetence and sabotage because the people who are involved in these are doing so in his name and to benefit his private funders,” the party added.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa cut short his visit to Egypt on Tuesday to return to South Africa to deal with the Eskom crisis.

The Presidency confirmed that he will meet with Eskom’s management team on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa came under fire for going ahead with the visit just hours after Eskom announced the escalation to stage 6 of load shedding on Monday.

Ramaphosa cuts short Egypt visit amid load shedding crisis

President Cyril Ramaphosa has cut short his official visit to Egypt amid the ongoing load shedding crisis.

Ramaphosa will meet the management team at state power utility Eskom on Wednesday, the Presidency also confirmed.

Eskom is currently implementing stage 4 load shedding nationwide after escalating it to an unprecedented stage 6 on Monday.

Bilateral talks

It blamed a number of factors for the crisis, including flooding at Kriel power station and a technical fault at the new Medupi power station.

Ramaphosa will now miss the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development Conference, which is slated for Wednesday.

However, he held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Tuesday “which were aimed at strengthening and deepening our bilateral relations.”

The President came under severe criticism for going ahead with the visit after Eskom announced the escalation to stage 6.

‘Wrong to have left the country’

Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen called on the President to return home to deal with the crisis.

Speaking to the media outside Eskom’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa was wrong to have left the country before dealing with the matter.

He said, “Ramaphosa is greatly mistaken if he thinks he can run a country and manage this crisis via a cell phone. This requires bold leadership, not platitudes.”

“The devastating effect of these blackouts on industry, retail, growth and jobs constitutes a clear and present danger to our economic well-being.”

Before his departure on Monday, Ramaphosa said the government is on a “bold path of rebuilding and restructuring” Eskom.

He added, “The energy challenges in this country will not be resolved overnight. We have set out on a bold path of restructuring and rebuilding. Despite the setbacks of the past week, we are making progress and will steadily begin to see the fruits of these efforts.”

UPDATE: It has since emerged that Ramaphosa received news of stage 6 load shedding after he had already left the country for Egypt.

EWN quoted Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko saying, “Having received it after he departed South Africa, he is expected to receive a full briefing on measures to mitigate the electricity crisis.”

Latest renewable IPPs could soon offer load shedding respite – report

The latest round of renewable independent power producer (IPP) projects could soon offer respite from load shedding, according to a Business Insider South Africa report.

President Cyril Ramaphosa pushed through the signing of 27 IPP projects under bid window 4 in April 2018 and they have been in construction since then.

When fully completed, the projects will supply a total of 2,300MW of electricity to the national grid.

Potentially prevent stage 2 load shedding

This could be enough to potentially prevent stage 2 load shedding, which effectively means Eskom is shedding 2,000MW of electricity.

The procurement process for bid window 4 had stalled for two years after Eskom announced in 2016 that it would no longer sign IPP agreements.

The projects will supply a mix of wind, solar, biomass, and hydro power to the grid, potentially saving Eskom billions of rand currently used for emergency diesel generators.

Solar projects will be the first to come online in February 2020, according to the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA). They will reach their full capacity of 813MW in November 2020.

Wind projects from July 2020

Wind projects, which will contribute the most power under this bid window, will however take a little longer, according to the South Africa Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

For instance, construction at Kangnas Wind Farm in the Northern Cape started in June 2018 and is scheduled for completion in August 2020. The Farm is projected to supply 140MW to the grid.

The Perdekraal East Wind Farm in the Western Cape will supply 107MW when completed in July 2020.

Enel Green Power is expected to add 700MW from its wind power projects by 2021. Most of the remaining projects will also be completed in 2021.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is under pressure to start a new round of IPP procurements as part of the newly released Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

If signed now, the new projects would take 18-24 months to come into commercial operation. Given Eskom’s challenges, energy experts say South Africa doesn’t have time to wait.

One of them, Anton Eberhard, tweeted recently, “Here we go again. Eskom power cuts. South Africa is desperately short of power.

“I remain gobsmacked that Energy Minister @GwedeMantashe1 is not implementing his electricity IRP plan through new IPP procurements and is not relaxing licensing for distributed private generation investment.”

Cyril on stage 6 load shedding: Energy challenges 'won't be resolved overnight'

President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved to reassure the nation following Eskom’s shock implementation of stage 6 load shedding on Monday.

In a statement released by the Presidency on Monday night, Ramaphosa said the government is on a “bold path of rebuilding and restructuring” Eskom.

He said, “The energy challenges in this country will not be resolved overnight. We have set out on a bold path of restructuring and rebuilding. Despite the setbacks of the past week, we are making progress and will steadily begin to see the fruits of these efforts.”

Anger, frustration is ‘understandable’

The President said he has been in constant communication with the Department of Public Enterprises and Eskom about the situation.

He said, “The ongoing load shedding is devastating for the country. It is causing our economy great harm and disrupting the lives of citizens.

“The anger and frustration that load shedding has caused is understandable. It is essential at this time that all stakeholders work together to restore adequate supply of electricity in the shortest time. We call on all South Africans to reduce consumption at this time.”

Ramaphosa added that “extreme weather” in parts of South Africa had compounded the electricity grid’s problems.

Back to stage 4

“Our immediate priority is to get as much generating capacity back on line within the shortest possible time.

“Eskom’s emergency response command centre and technical teams are working around the clock to fix multiple breakdowns,” he explained.

The President said government is tackling the immediate challenges while putting long-term solutions in place.

Ramaphosa also “directed the Ministry of Public Enterprises as well as Eskom to continue to give regular updates and communication on the progress being made to restore the units back to full capacity.”

Meanwhile, Eskom announced late on Monday that it had reverted to stage 4 at 22:00, which will continue until 23:00 Tuesday.

It had earlier blamed a technical fault at Medupi power station and flooding at Kriel power station for escalating load shedding to stage 6.

Sho Madjozi blames 8-hour SAA flight delay on 'mass looting under Zuma'

Rapper Sho Madjozi has blamed “mass looting” under former President Jacob Zuma’s administration for an eight-hour South African Airways (SAA) flight delay she experienced on Sunday.

Madjozi made the comment in reply to a fan’s query on Twitter. She had earlier tweeted about her long wait at the airport.

“Been waiting at the airport in Durban for about 8 hours waiting to fly to PE [Port Elizabeth]. The flight is now scheduled for 23h45. Hoping for the best.”

SAA business rescue

When a fan inquired what had caused the delay, the popular rapper replied, “Business rescue on SAA my friend. But if you wanna go deeper, it’s because of mass looting of state funds under JZ [Jacob Zuma].”

SAA has been battling to return to normalcy since the recent strike by workers who were demanding salary increases.

The struggling state airline had to cancel some domestic and international flights for several days and was reportedly losing around R50 million in revenue per day.

Although the strike was resolved, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan suggested last week that its impact had contributed to government’s decision to put it into business rescue.

Fans react

Predictably, Sho Madjozi’s comment sparked debate among her fans, with some criticising her for it.

Sanele Sane Ngcobo replied, “Highly disappointed by this misinformed comment. Most painful part is that it [is] coming from my favourite. It is important for one to understand history of SAA before making such reckless comments. Capitalists want to privates SAA at all cost.”

“She need not to allow the hype of John Cena to get over her head. She is Thuma [Mina] Brigade we knew but wasn’t expecting her to spit on our faces. She must get her high horse and stop behaving like politicians because we will treat like one,” @Munyai_R_Gundo added.

However, others, like @PhandleVuyo, came to Madjozi’s defence. He replied, “Sho Madjozi is not wrong! At all!

“All those expressing ‘disappointment’ at the truth she tweeted must know their disappointment does nothing to her. At least we know she’s not a stomach artist like that goat-bearded dude who’ll sing praises for [leaders] like Zuma for their next plate!”

@Great_Kopi added, “They will attack you sisi. Truth hurts. Almost all SOEs suffer under the ‘father of RET’ [radical economic transformation].”

Ramaphosa: State will retain ownership of 'strategic' SOEs

President Cyril Ramaphosa has seemingly rebuffed claims that he’s planning to privatise state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

In his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa was categorical that the state will retain ownership of all “strategic” SOEs.

He wrote, “As we do this work, we are clear that the state will retain ownership of all those state-owned enterprises that are strategic.”

Strategic equity partners

“This is so that these entities are able to perform the crucial economic and developmental functions that the market would not on its own be able to perform,” he added.

At the same time, Ramaphosa said government will seek strategic equity partners at SOEs “where necessary and where appropriate” to help raise capital and inject skills and technology.

The President said, “This must be done transparently and in a manner that strengthens – rather than weakens – the ability of the state to meet the development needs of the people.”

He said his decision to put South African Airways (SAA) into business rescue shows government’s commitment “to take all necessary steps – even drastic ones – to restore [SOEs] to health.”

‘None of our SOE’s is lost’

Ramaphosa insisted that despite the massive problems they face, “none of our SOEs is lost.” He added that “they can all be saved” through “extraordinary effort and, in some cases, tough decisions.”

Ramaphosa has come under criticism from some leaders who believe his decisions on SOEs, such as Eskom’s unbundling and SAA’s business rescue, are a prelude to privatisation.

Over the weekend, Sunday Independent quoted unnamed sources in the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) who reportedly accused Ramaphosa of planning to “sell off state assets to pre-selected private partners.”

Ekurhuleni Mayor and ANC regional chairperson Mzwandile Masina also seemingly criticised the President’s decision to put SAA into business rescue.

In a tweet last week, Masina wrote, “Restructuring, unbundling, business rescue = (privatisation) which is not ANC policy.”

On Sunday, ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said Ramaphosa would highlight the state of SOEs in his “political overview” at the party’s NEC meeting being held in Benoni, Gauteng.

Anti-apartheid activist Ben Turok passes away aged 92 – family announces

Prominent anti-apartheid activist and former MP Prof Ben Turok has passed away, his family has announced.

In a statement released on Monday morning, Turok’s family said he had passed away in the early hours of Monday aged 92.

“He was always outspoken and dedicated his whole life to fighting for freedom, equality and social justice in South Africa,” they said.

‘Loyal, lifetime ANC member’

The family added, “He was a loyal, lifetime member of the [African National Congress] ANC, but retained an independent perspective throughout.

“He asked for his death to marked by a private ceremony, rather than anything official or formal, in view of the present predicament facing the country. His wisdom and counsel will be sorely missed.”

Born in Latvia in 1927, Turok and his family emigrated to South Africa in 1934. He became involved in the anti-apartheid Defiance Campaign in the early 1950s.

In 1955, he presented the economic clause of the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People.

Arrest, exile and return to South Africa

Turok’s anti-apartheid activism led to his arrest in 1956 and he became one of the 155 activists in the Treason Trial. He also joined the South African Communist Party (SACP).

In 1961, he became a founding member of uMkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the ANC’s military wing.

Turok was arrested again in 1962 for sabotage and sentenced to three years in Pretoria Central Prison.

He escaped to exile in 1963 and took part in ANC activities in Tanzania and the United Kingdom before returning to South Africa in 1990.

Turok became an MP in 1995 and served for 20 years before retiring. He held an MA in Political Science from the University of Dar es Salaam and was a prolific writer and editor.

In his final years, he was a prominent columnist for Business Day. He was also the director of the Institute for African Alternatives and editor of New Agenda.

Mashaba launches The People's Dialogue: 'Our political system is broken'

Former Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has formally launched “The People’s Dialogue,” a political engagement platform for South Africans.

In a video posted on his social media pages on Friday, Mashaba said the platform is aimed at starting “an engagement with South Africans about forging a better future for our country.”

He invited South Africans to share their views on critical issues affecting the country on his website – thepeoplesdialogue.org.za/.

‘1994 did not bring more opportunities’

The ex-Mayor said after succeeding in business in the 1980s, he thought the 1994 democratic breakthrough would bring more opportunities.

He added, “But this did not happen because our South African people are being held back by politicians and political parties that seem to exist only for their narrow self-interest.”

Mashaba said the level of corruption he witnessed as Mayor of Johannesburg “shows me that politics is rotten to the core.”

He said he started the platform because he is “tired” of the failure of corrupt politicians, adding that listening to South Africans is the first step as he explores “the next steps that need to be taken to change our country.”

‘Our political system is broken’

In a series of other tweets, Mashaba added, “I believe in South Africa and South Africans. I will not give up and neither must you. This week’s chaos shows that SA needs real solutions – not politics as usual.

“Our political system is broken, but, South Africa is full of potential. We want to believe, we want hope for a better future and we, the people, know what needs to be done to fix our country.

“If we rely on our political parties for solutions, we will never succeed. This is why I believe in a people-driven engagement, focusing on turning South Africa around. #SASpeaks.”

Mashaba resigned as Mayor and from his former party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), in November. Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane followed suit.

The two leaders met last week and hinted at starting a “conversation.” Maimane tweeted, “Our nation must engage in conversation, charter a dialogue about the future.

“Together as a nation, we can and must build a future for all. Join the conversation.”

SA has 'most expensive home fibre internet connections in 62 surveyed countries'

South Africa has one of the most expensive home fibre internet connections in the world, according to a survey by Picodi South Africa.

Picodi’s survey featured 233 fibre internet service providers operating in 62 countries, Business Insider reports.

Out of these countries, local providers charge the most for 100 Mbps home uncapped fibre internet.

R1,273.84 monthly bill

South Africans with such internet connections pay an average of R1,273.84 ($87.24) in their monthly bills.

The second most expensive country for home fibre internet is Iceland at R1,008.24 ($69.05) followed by Norway at R993.64 ($68.51).

The least expensive countries are in Eastern Europe, with people in Modlova paying as little as R146 ($10) and Russians just R117 ($8) for similar connections.

Picodi calculated South Africa’s average price from five service providers – Active Fibre, Axxess, Webafrica, SkyFi and Vanilla.

Competition Commission on mobile data

The survey mirrors a finding by the Competition Commission of South Africa this week that mobile data prices in the country are  too high and reflect “a bias against the poor.”

The report singled out Vodacom and MTN for their high data prices, especially in the prepaid option.

Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said the prices are higher than in many other markets in the world, adding, “We think there is scope to reduce these prices in the region of 30-50%.

“We have decided we will give the industry two months to act on these recommendations, failing which we will consider a prosecution for excessive pricing.”

However, MTN indicated on Wednesday that it disagreed with the Commission’s findings and would oppose the recommendations if they are  “over-broad and intrusive.”

Vodacom similarly voiced its disagreement, saying it had reduced its effective data price by about 50% since March 2016.

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