Suburbs across Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic hub, were hit by widespread power outages on Friday that electricity providers were unable to explain.
“Technicians are on site to determine the cause of the outage,” Khulu Phasiwe, a spokesman for state-owned power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., said via Twitter.
There’s no estimated time for the restoration of electricity at this stage, he said.
Eskom has not implemented rolling blackouts in the city, Andrew Etzinger, Eskom’s acting head of generation, said via a mobile phone text message. A spokesman for Johannesburg’s City Power wasn’t immediately able to comment.
Eskom said earlier on Friday that there was a risk of blackouts because the power system “remained tight and vulnerable” and the power could be cut at short notice if there was a shift in plant performance.
“This could include a significant loss in generating plant due to unplanned technical breakdowns,” Eskom said in the statement.
A total of 40 South Africans workers were killed in accidents in gold mines last year – half of the total 81 lives lost in mines across the country, according to statistics released by the department of mineral resources on Friday.
However, there are positive signs of improved mine safety.
By this time last year, 14 mine workers had died at work. There have been five fatalities so far this year.
Platinum mines were still the second-largest contributor to fatal accidents, with 12 deaths, but this was at least less than 2017’s toll of 29 lives lost.
The company with the most to answer for is Sibanye Stillwater, which saw two mining disasters at its operations last year.
A disaster is defined as an incident where five people are killed at once.
In May, a fall of ground incident led to the death of seven people in the company’s Driefontein gold mine. In June, five mine workers were killed in a “heat-related” accident at the adjacent Kloof gold mine.
The Palabora Mining Company, South Africa’s only copper miner, also had a disaster when six workers were killed in an explosion in July.
Other accidents in mines leading to injuries but not deaths decreased last year by 12% to 2 350.
South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe has announced that he will donate half the revenue generated by his assets to his foundation.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Wednesday hailed Patrice Motsepe’s decision to give half of the funds generated by his family’s holdings to the poor, as a milestone.
Motsepe is the first person outside of the Unites States to join the ‘Giving Pledge’, an initiative started by Warren Buffet and Gates, which encourages the super-wealthy to donate at least half of their money to charity.
The African Rainbow Minerals chair announced the funds will be channeled through the Motsepe foundation.
The money will be distributed to various issues affecting the poor including health, education, unemployment and the upliftment of women.
Gates has wished the South African billionaire well.
“It was a wonderful thing to hear how the Motsepe’s really, as part of their moral conviction as a family, believe in giving back. I want to congratulate them.”
Meanwhile, Motsepe said the most effective way to deal with joblessness and poverty is to create a business environment that is globally competitive and attractive to the private sector.
“We don’t want Africa to forever be a continent of charity and a continent of donations. We want Africa to be self-sustaining.”
The businessman said the donation will contribute towards making South Africa a better place.
“People in my position have a huge responsibility to South Africans who are less fortunate.”
Motsepe will consult with church and traditional leaders, as well as various charities, to decide where the money goes.
A multimillion-rand tender with the City of Johannesburg (COJ) – that had the potential to be one of the good stories of government’s vision to empower black women – has gone sour and the city is being sued R8 million for not honouring the contract.
Faithfulness Business Enterprise was awarded a contract to supply and deliver protective footwear for members of the metro police department – JMPD – valued at R23.760 million over three years in 2014.
In accordance with the tender, the company subsequently spent millions of rands and hired more staff to deliver on its contractual obligations.
However, the city placed only a single order for R660 000 in December 2014 and then placed orders with other suppliers, leaving the company with a mountain of costs and no orders.
Two years into the contract and a single order later, the city applied to the Johannesburg High Court, seeking to terminate the service level agreement on the basis that the tender process was flawed and that there were a number of irregularities.
However, none of the alleged irregularities was related to the company or because of its influence.
The court dismissed with costs of the city’s application in February last year and upheld the service level agreement as binding and valid.
But the city still did not place any orders with the company.
The company took the city to court to recoup its losses, which it initially estimated at R17 million, but after being audited amounted to R8.666 million.
In a letter of demand sent to the city, the company said it had suffered damages amounting to more than R17 million in respect of rental expenditure incurred in leasing premises suitable for the storage and sorting of the contracted quantities of footwear; salaries and wages of staff who were employed to ensure the capacity to meet the future orders; stationery and printing costs; vehicle costs, office equipment; and loss of profits.
Speaking to City Press, Selina Siganga, ownerof Faithfulness Business Enterprise, said the tender had left her worse off and had paralysed her business.
“Because of that contract, the banks increased the overdrafts and now I have to deal with them. I have had to lay off people I had employed and had to negotiate with them not to take me to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration because I was paying their salaries but not getting orders.
“This government always says it wants to support black woman in business and wants employment [to create jobs] but it is killing us,” she said.
Spokesperson for the city Nthatisi Modingoane opted not to comment on the matter.
“The matter is before the courts and thus the city will wait for the court process,” Modingoane said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did not make many new announcements his state of the nation address on Thursday night, but he used the occasion to warn those who have dabbled in corruption that government agencies will be coming for them.
Using the momentum of the newly appointed head of the National Prosecutions Authority, Shamila Batohi, he announced the creation of a specialised unit to deal with serious corruption and associated offences.
Ramaphosa said he had agreed with Batohi for the urgent need to set up this office and would soon promulgate a proclamation that will outline the specific terms of reference.
This will send a shiver down the spine of many of his fellow ANC leaders against whom allegations have been made at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
The unit or directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo commission, as well as other commissions and disciplinary enquiries.
It will identify priority cases to investigate and prosecute and will recover assets identified to be proceeds of corruption.
This unit, which is already being compared to the defunct Scorpions, will help respond to public complaints that too many public representatives and government officials who are implicated in wrongdoing are let off the hook.
It also means that many of Ramaphosa’s opponents who have defiantly held on to positions will be handled by these processes without forcing his hand to fire them.
A he spoke, opposition MPs taunted him about a R500 000 donation that his ANC campaign received from Bosasa last year, implying that he could also be found wanting by these probes.
Ramaphosa proceeded with the speech nevertheless, without acknowledging or responding to their heckling.
Ramaphosa spent a lot of time speaking about the work he had done in the last year since taking over from Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ANC.
In particular he repeatedly mentioned his investment drive, which has attracted millions of dollars in pledges but is yet to make a direct impact on the economy.
“We are on the cusp of seeing direct jobs from the initiatives,” he promised.
As expected, a plan is also being crafted for the embattled power utility Eskom.
“Eskom is in crisis and the risk it poses for South Africa are great,” Ramaphosa acknowledged.
He said bold and decisive action was necessary and some of the consequences would be painful.
Without mentioning the details, it was clear the plan would either involve major restructuring or possible job losses.
“Eskom has come up with a the nine-point plan which we support and plan to implement. Eskom will need to take urgent steps to reduce its costs.”
The president was afforded space by the Economic Freedom Fighters, which had threatened to interrupt his state of the nation address unless he gave a proper explanation for the Bosasa donation.
But he spoke uninterrupted, which was a fresh breath of air for a Parliament used to the interruptions when Zuma was speaking.
Ramaphosa also spoke about a restructured intelligence service.
He was going to re-establish the national security council in order to better coordinate intelligence and security-related functions.
This follows work done by a high-level review panel on state security agency.
Fly Modern Ark and Cerberus Capital Management – a consortium of local and international investors – have made an unsolicited loan offer to SAA to the tune of R21 billion in return for a 51% stake in the bankrupt airline.
In September, media reported that SAA would need R21 billion between then and 2021, when the airline is expected to return to profitability.
In his mid-term budget speech in October, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had announced a R5 billion bailout for SAA.
Last month, SAA’s acting chief financial officer (CFO), Deon Fredericks, told Parliament that the airline would need a further R3.5 billion between then and end-March 2019.
On Saturday SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said lenders had agreed to advance a facility that would see the national carrier through to March next year.
In an email sent last week by Fly Modern Ark’s co-founder, Theunis Crous, to various stakeholders – including SAA chief executive Vuyani Jarana and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan – Crous confirms that talks regarding the funding were held between his team and airline officials.
“As indicated, our company – in partnership with local and international financiers – has engaged with Vuyani Jarana, [former interim CFO] Robert Head and [SAA treasury boss] Lucky Ncobela with regard to funding SAA in the short, medium and long term, which included the potential equity transaction related thereto.”
The department of public enterprises has said that SAA needs an equity partner, but has not revealed the size of the stake that it is willing to sell.
Crous’ email reads further: “The above discussions culminated in a teleconference with ourselves, our international partners ... These discussions were constructive and fruitful, and we were to engage after the minister of finance’s mid-term budget vote in October 2018.”
However, the email shows that following Head’s departure from SAA, the meeting did not happen.
Added Crous: “We are firmly of the view that we, as a consortium, would add intrinsic value to the turnaround strategy of SAA over and above the funding requirements.”
Gordhan acknowledged Crous’ correspondence via an email written by a person named Selatswa Masenya: “On behalf of Mr Pravin Gordhan ... I hereby acknowledge receipt of your correspondence ... the contents thereof have been noted and will be brought to the minister’s attention at the earliest opportunity.”
Crous told Press last week that SAA needed an equity partner.
“We are offering them R21 billion as a loan and we are prepared to take 51% and then plough in more money to recapitalise the business. SAA initially expressed an interest in the idea but later went quiet. Cerberus knows how to turn around companies.”
Tlali confirmed that a meeting with Fly Modern Ark had taken place in May at the airline’s head office in Kempton Park.
“Fly Modern Ark wanted an opportunity to present their capability, which they suggested could be beneficial to SAA’s turnaround strategy, including addressing our liquidity challenges. The discussion with Fly Modern Ark did not include any discussion regarding a strategic equity partner.”
He said the troubled airline was not involved in any bid to to find an equity party, adding that if that process did happen, it would be led by the government.
Tlali stressed that the discussions with Fly Modern Ark centred on funding, not the acquisition of a stake by the company. He denied that a teleconference took place.
Adrian Lackay, spokesperson for the public enterprises ministry, said government was currently not involved in talks to acquire potential partners.
“Acquiring an equity partner for SAA would require a significant capital injection from government upfront. For a commitment of this nature to take effect, it is essential that the company is first stabilised operationally in order for government as the shareholder to realise optimal value from a strategic equity partnership.”
The ministry, Lackay said, had received various unsolicited bids from companies wanting to acquire a stake in the airline.
“In terms of the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution, such bids cannot arbitrarily be considered, entered into or accepted. It would have to follow due process.”
Lackay said that SAA, with government’s support, was working to raise sufficient funding to meet its immediate and medium-term liquidity requirements
Marlboro cigarette maker Altria's $1.8 billion investment in the cannabis producer Cronos is a win-win, according to an analyst.
"Cronos provides Altria a unique entry into cannabis and we do not think Altria is taking on outsized risk while entering a new high-growth category," Vivien Azer, an analyst at Cowen, said in a note out on Monday.
Cronos has a relatively smaller cultivation capacity than most of the other major Canadian cannabis producers, but a higher efficient operating line, Azer says. While Cronos's revenue over the last 12 months - $12 million sales - ranked only the sixth among major Canadian marijuana producers, its gross margin ranked second.
"Cronos has been judicious with capital, and has embraced an asset light model that does not prioritise cultivation (consistent with tobacco)," Azer noted. "Their business model is less capital focused and more reliant on sourcing cannabis from local farmers, similar to tobacco companies."
Moreover, Cronos' focus on rare cannabinoids is a point of differentiation for Altria, Azer said.
"While the potential uses of cannabinoids are vast, Cronos believes the key to successfully bringing cannabinoid-based products to market is in creating reliable, consistent and scalable production of a full spectrum of the ~100 cannabinoids, not just THC and CBD," which are the two primary cannabinoids that occur naturally in the Cannabis, she added.
Azer believes Cronos can leverage Altria's expertise to create value-added form factors while focusing on ingredient composition without reliance on a massive cultivation infrastructure.
Azer has an "outperform" rating and a $74 price target for Altria - a 40% premium to where shares are trading on Monday.