Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Tracking people infected with COVID-19 has become an important weapon in global responses to combatting the virus. Through the use of geo-location, mobile technology offers a simple solution for tracing people possibly exposed to COVID-19. With big data analytics there is the potential for tracking the pandemic’s spread, and employing analytics to forecast future patterns of contagion.

But at what cost? These are exceptional times calling for extraordinary measures. But do they justify the wholesale sacrifice of our rights? Concerns loom large across the globe. More than 100 civil society signatories and intergovernmental organisations have already warned as much in a joint letter.

The mobile phone industry is reportedly exploring the creation of a global data-sharing system that could track individuals around the world. For now, however, monitoring appears to be happening at national-level.

South Africa has joined several governments in passing regulations that allow the collection and storage of data from mobile companies. It has also appointed a former Constitutional Court Justice, Kate O’Regan, as the COVID-19 Judge. Her job will be to oversee data collection for the country’s contact-tracing database led by the Director-General of Health, Dr Anban Pillay.

The appointment of O'Regan indicates that the country is taking seriously concerns about the risks that monitoring can pose for human rights. Nevertheless, concerns remain about the ability of the Judge (or Parliament, which ultimately has oversight) to ensure that data, once collected, is not abused.

Global responses

A set of principles and ‘best practices’ have emerged internationally to guide data collection in disaster conditions. These include that:

  • measures are transparent and accountable;

  • the limitations of rights are proportional to the harms they are intended to prevent or limit;

  • data collection is minimised and time constrained;

  • data is retained for research or public use purposes and unused personal data is destroyed;

  • data is anonymised in such a way that individuals cannot be reidentified; and

  • third party sharing both within and outside of government is prevented.

However, South Africa’s data protection framework is not yet in place. Large parts of the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 have not yet come into force. The Office of the Information Regulator has been established. And three years ago Advocate Pansy Tlakula was appointed Chairperson. But key sections of the Act are not in play. Thus, her powers to act are constrained.

There is synchronicity, however, between the principles and requirements of the COVID-19 regulations, and the lawful data processing principles the Act describes.

The Regulator has issued guidelines for the collection of data to manage and curb the spread of COVID-19. These guidelines are contained in the Disaster Management Act (Regulations). And she has called for proactive compliance by responsible parties when processing personal information of data subjects who have been tested for, or are infected with, COVID-19.

The guidelines confirm the powers of the state to conduct mass surveillance of both COVID-19 carriers, and potential carriers through the sharing of data by mobile operators. They also include reference to some of the privacy touchstones in data collection, particularly when consent is not obtained.

The scope

Amendments to the disaster management regulations empower the Director-General of Health, to direct without prior notice, an electronic communications service provider to provide him with information for the COVID-19 tracing database to facilitate COVID-19 monitoring.

But these powers are circumscribed.

The regulations allow for the collection of location data of any person (and their personal identifiers) reasonably suspected to have contracted COVID-19, or that may have come into contact with someone who has. The commencement date is 5th March 2020.

The contents of the communication may not be intercepted by the Director-General – or anyone else.

The regulations state that the Department of Health will keep the information ‘confidential’. But big questions remain about the practical realities of ensuring that data remains secure, especially considering the Department’s own tenuous history in relation to data protection.

The regulations empower the Director General to instruct a mobile operator to provide the information mentioned. But the actual modalities of the data collection by the Health Department is less clear - particularly how the data is collected and transmitted to the database securely.

For instance, once a request for the data from an operator is made and provided to the Director-General, who will receive the information to inform the contacts? Who will ensure they are tested?

Importantly the regulations limit the collection of data only to the purpose of addressing, preventing, or combatting the spread of COVID-19. The data collected may only be disclosed by authorised persons for this purpose.

The Director-General is required to file weekly reports stating the number, names and details of all persons whose location or movements were obtained to the designated Judge. This will contribute to the oversight of collection. It will also go some way to constraining data collection to what’s strictly necessary.

The duration of data collection is circumscribed and terminates with the end of the national state of disaster. And within six weeks of it lapsing, the Director-General is required to file a report with the COVID-19 Judge detailing steps taken to de-identify the data. This includes providing notifications to every person whose information was obtained.

The regulations require that all information on the COVID-19 Tracing Database, which has not been de-identified, be destroyed once the state of disaster has ended. But de-identification is not defined. This is a major concern, given the very real possibility of re-identification with the use of other publicly available, or hacked, databases.

Possible improvements

These measures go some way to safeguarding South Africans’ individual rights while acting in the public interest to contain the virus.

But the regulations could be improved by:

  • requiring that data subject be informed as soon as they are tracked, but no later than six weeks after the termination of the state of disaster;

  • explicitly empowering the Judge to appoint technical experts to assist her in reviewing the use of data. This could include helping to ensure its security;

  • explicitly giving the Judge access to the database and the data supplied by the cellular providers to verify reporting. This could also assist in monitoring security and other data processing protection measures;

  • requiring immediate notification of all compromises of privacy or security of the data to the persons whose data is compromised; and

  • clearly prescribing data processing standards that respect the principles set out in the Act.The Conversation

Alison Gillwald, Adjunct Professor, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town; Andrew Rens, Senior Research Fellow, Research ICT Africa, American University; Anri van der Spuy, PhD Researcher, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Gabriella Razzano, Lawyer and Researcher, London School of Economics and Political Science

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Telecoms

Angolan state oil company Sonangol last Thursday in Luanda launched an international public tender for the sale of its stakes in nine companies, according to information published on its website.

Sonangol intends to sell 30% of its stake in Petromar, as well as 51% in companies Sonatide Marine Limited and Sonatide Marine Angola Limitada and 40% in Sonamet Industrial and Sonarcergy – Serviços e Construções Petrolíferas, Lda.

The sale of the stakes is part of the privatisation programme and also covers the sale of 10% of the share capital of shipyard company Porto Estaleiros Navais (Paenal), 33.33% of SBM Shipyard, 30% of Sonadiets Limitada and 30% of Sonadiets Services.

Sonangol requires that the parties provide qualification documents under the terms of the tender, as well as a provisional bond of between US$7,000 and US$15,000 or the equivalent in kwanzas, at the exchange rate of the National Bank of Angola.

The deadline to submit applications, in the case of Petromar, is 30 May of this year, with the presentation of the proposals scheduled for 23 July.

Applications for Sonatide Marine, Limited and Sonatide Marine Angola are scheduled for 15 May, and the submission of proposals for 15 June.

As part of the privatisation programme Sonangol has a total of 54 stakes to be sold in Angola and abroad.

In January Sonangol launched the public tender for the sale of stakes that it holds in six companies.

These are Atlântida Viagens Turismo, in Luanda, WTA Internacional, Atlântida Viagens Turismo, in Lisbon, WTA Travel Agency (Luanda), WTAn(Paris), WTA/Houston Express and ITSS- Internacional Travel Services and Systems.

All these companies are focused on travel and tourism and have headquarters in Angola, Portugal, the United States of America and France.



Published in Business

The oil market is in freefall. The sector collapsed into pandemonium last week when the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil price benchmark fell below zero for this first time in history, making U.S. oil not only worthless but a liability, closing at -$37.63 a barrel on Monday.

While WTI has since recovered considerably, but its future is uncertain. If last week has taught us anything it’s that all bets are off. Now the question on the mind of many is, if it was possible for U.S. oil to go so deeply negative, is the same historic nosedive in store for Brent Crude, the international oil price benchmark?

The answers vary. One leading oil economist told Energy Voice that it would “require something cataclysmic” for the Brent benchmark to follow U.S. crude into negative pricing. But when Bloomberg posed the question “Can Brent crude oil follow WTI into negative territory?” the answer was an unequivocal: “You bet.”

The negative prices are the result of a monthslong crisis in oil markets, beginning with a plummet in oil demand around the globe thanks to the spread of the novel coronavirus. As economies around the world shut down, the leading OPEC+ members of Saudi Arabia and Russia were pressured to find a solution, but instead, their talks quickly devolved into an all-out oil price war, flooding the international oil market with a huge glut of crude oil to the tune of about 10 million barrels of oversupply per day. Last week, the glut reached critical mass when the volume of oil on the market maxed out oil storage capacity around the globe, driving the nosedive of oil prices all the way below zero (well below) in the United States and Brent hit an 18-year low at just $20 a barrel.

In an article published last Tuesday, Energy Voice reported that despite Brent’s dire straits, “Professor Alex Kemp of Aberdeen University does not foresee it going down the same path to zero or negative pricing.” The petro-expert told reporters that “The two prices, WTI and Brent, are in some ways linked but, to some extent, they are separate.

The main reason being that Brent reflects the world balance of supply and demand and WTI reflects the position inside America. [...] We wouldn’t get negative prices for Brent because Brent is the world market and it would require something cataclysmic for the world economy to get a negative Brent price.”

Other experts, however, are taking the opposite view and preparing for Brent to go negative. “ICE Futures Europe Ltd. confirmed on Tuesday night that it’s preparing various Brent prices for just that possibility if there’s the demand to do so -- even if there’s still a long way to go before that happens since June contracts are trading at about $20 a barrel,” reported Bloomberg on Wednesday. “Beyond the mechanistic side of negative pricing there’s also a market reality: the world’s storage sites are filling with crude fast -- the precise concern that caused West Texas Intermediate to turn negative.”

Brent does not function in the same way as WTI, however. “While the Brent futures contract is cash-settled against the value of the Brent index price, the WTI contract is physically settled, meaning a trader must take delivery of barrels of oil at Cushing in Oklahoma, hundreds of miles from the coast.”

This does not change the fact that oil storage is filling up around the globe, and filling up fast. “Well over 100 million barrels of oil is now being held in floating storage -- by another estimate more than twice that. [...] With on-land sites either completely booked up or filling fast, there’s still pressure on Brent.” We’re not out of the woods yet.


Credit: Oilprice.com

Published in Engineering

Former President de Klerk's denial that apartheid was a crime against humanity is cause for reflection on Freedom Day.

Freedom Day, celebrated every year on April 27, commemorates South Africa's first democratic election in 1994 - the first time in the history of the country that non-white citizens were allowed to vote.

That election saw Nelson Mandela replace Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk to become South Africa's first Black president. Mandela's liberation movement-turned-political party, the African National Congress (ANC), meanwhile took the reins from the white nationalist government that had been in power since 1948. All this transpired without the bloodshed many feared would take place.

In the years that led up to those elections, while Mandela was the face of Black forgiveness, de Klerk became the face of white compromise. In 1990, he took the step of unbanning the ANC and freed Mandela from 27 years in prison. He also agreed to the negotiations that would see the peaceful transition from racist rule to democracy.

It was, therefore, shocking to many when, on February 2 this year, de Klerk publicly stated that apartheid was not a crime against humanity in an interview with the national broadcaster, the SABC.

'Treasonous' comments

During the interview, de Klerk said he was "not fully agreeing" with the presenter who asked him to confirm that apartheid - the legalised segregation of and discrimination against non-white people - was a crime against humanity.

Immediately afterwards, the FW de Klerk Foundation supported his statement and published a response that read: "Deplorable as it is, we cannot, from a legal point of view, accept that apartheid can in this manner be made a crime against humanity."

There was an immediate public outcry as well as criticism from the media and other politicians.

Apartheid was so immoral in its conception and so devastating in its execution that there is no South African living today who is not touched by its legacy.


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called de Klerk's comments "treasonous".

"Apartheid was so immoral in its conception and so devastating in its execution that there is no South African living today who is not touched by its legacy. I would say that to deny this is treasonous," he said.

Although de Klerk later retracted his statement, the debacle opened old wounds and raised questions about his legacy and the extent to which white South Africans have acknowledged the severity of apartheid.

'We are never seen as human'

"For me and my family, de Klerk's denial of apartheid being a crime against our humanity really hit home quite hard," said Lukhanyo Calata, whose father, Fort Calata, was one of the "Cradock Four" - a group of activists murdered by apartheid security police in 1985.

"[The comments] reinforced our belief that de Klerk has never really seen us as human beings. He's never assigned any human value to our family," he told Al Jazeera.

In its response to de Klerk's statement, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), an opposition party that has called de Klerk an "apartheid apologist" who "has blood on his hands", confirmed it would pursue a murder inquiry into state-sponsored killings that de Klerk had allegedly organised. The organisation also called for de Klerk to be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize, which he received together with Mandela in 1993, for their collaboration in ending apartheid.

 South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize
In this December 10, 1993 file photo, Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk pose with their Nobel Peace Prize gold medals and diplomas in Oslo, Norway [File: AP]

De Klerk, born in 1936, is from a conservative Afrikaner background. His father, Jan de Klerk, was a minister in the cabinet of South African Prime Minister Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd - the man widely regarded as the architect of apartheid.

For decades, FW de Klerk was a committed supporter of apartheid. Elected as a member of Parliament in 1972, he held the ministerial portfolios of mines and energy affairs, internal affairs, and national education and planning. During his time as a cabinet minister, he was considered more conservative than many of his ministerial colleagues.

Ferial Haffajee, a South African journalist, wrote that her abiding memory of de Klerk during apartheid was of the man who passed the university bills that sought to make it more difficult for black people to gain access to white universities.

So it came as a surprise to many when de Klerk announced in Parliament on February 2, 1990, that he would unban the ANC and release Mandela.

The 'myth' of the liberator

In the decades since, many have asked whether de Klerk's U-turn from his conservative past was the result of pragmatism or of a sincere conviction that apartheid was morally wrong.

"De Klerk attempted to hold himself aloof from apartheid crimes against humanity, as did many others who were aware of the illegal and extrajudicial acts of the government," South African journalist Marianne Thamm told Al Jazeera. "By convincing himself he did not know of the gory details, he was able to pass himself off as a relatively 'untainted' and 'progressive' leader."

On the difference between de Klerk and Mandela, Thamm writes: "De Klerk's heart, a heart that has grown the carapace of the consummate pragmatic politician. And that was the singular and unique magic of Nelson Mandela, he revealed his heart while at the same time keeping his head - the mark of a true statesman."

Referring to the "myth" that de Klerk was a liberator, Haffajee writes: "Not then and not now have a generation of us bought into the myth, so his statement, now retracted, that apartheid was not a crime against humanity was hardly surprising to many of us."

Apartheid as an international crime

From 1952 to 1990, apartheid was condemned annually by the United Nations General Assembly as contrary to the Charter of the United Nations.

The 1973 Apartheid Convention required states to both suppress and punish acts of apartheid. At the time of the signing of this Convention, the South African government ignored it.

The inclusion of apartheid in the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was the strongest acknowledgement yet that apartheid was an international crime. It defines apartheid as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime".

Christopher Gevers, senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is critical of the trade-off that South Africa's democratic government made through the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) because he saw that it meant truth came at the expense of justice.

De Klerk and Mandela
Former South African presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, centre [File: AP]

"Twenty-six years on, not only have we failed to prosecute those who blatantly refused to prosecute the bargain, but the promised 'truth and reconciliation' is wearing thin," he said to Al Jazeera. Gevers points to the fact that the crime of apartheid has never been prosecuted in South Africa or anywhere else in the world.

De Klerk's comment came at a particularly difficult time for South Africa.

As Nobel laureate and former archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, said in his foundation's statement on February 16, South Africa "is on an economic precipice. It is beset by radical poverty and inequity. Those who suffered most under apartheid continue to suffer most today."

Inadequate apologies

February was not the first time de Klerk was criticised for his public statements on apartheid.

He initially apologised for apartheid on April 29, 1993. That apology was widely regarded as inadequate, since it did not disclose de Klerk's personal participation in apartheid crimes.

Subsequently, during his testimony to the TRC in 1997, de Klerk described his initial apology as an "unqualified apology". He pushed back against those who attacked it as an attempt to defend or justify the policies of the past.

Leon Wessels, a cabinet minister during de Klerk's presidency, told Al Jazeera: "The de Klerk that appeared before the TRC was a jurist and an intellectual. De Klerk did not seem to be emotionally present."

Veteran journalist Max du Preez found it particularly disappointing that de Klerk never asked for forgiveness before the TRC.

Political commentator and academic William Gumede believes one reason for the strong outcry after de Klerk's February statement is the opportunism of the populist left, represented by the EFF. He said the current climate is "particularly inflammable". Like Tutu, Gumede also believes the difficult economic situation means poorer South Africans are particularly disgruntled.

"We haven't had an official state apology. An apology would give recognition to suffering," said Gumede.

White denial

Christi van der Westhuizen, an associate professor at the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy at Nelson Mandela University, believes the recent outcry is indicative of a reaction to the hardening of white attitudes in recent years.

"These attitudes can, in turn, be relayed to the ANC government's 'lost decade' due to grand scale corruption," she said.

She believes the denial of the severity of apartheid constitutes apartheid denial. "There is an obfuscation of the dehumanisation of marginalised groupings under apartheid," she said.

This history in its fullness has not yet been told. And the damage wreaked on the lives of millions of South Africans over a sustained period of time ... and the ramifications of this on generations, is still here with us.


Journalist Thamm told Al Jazeera: "The outcry this year is because there is much unfinished business and there will never be resolution. Enough evidence emerged at the TRC of the murder and savagery of the apartheid state."

Thamm believes de Klerk's denial was indicative of a more general unwillingness on the part of white South Africans to recognise the severity of apartheid.

"This history in its fullness has not yet been told. And the damage wreaked on the lives of millions of South Africans over a sustained period of time, to be dispossessed, to be rendered a 'nothing' legally, and the ramifications of this on generations, is still here with us," she said.

'Confusion, anger and hurt'

Two weeks after de Klerk said apartheid was not a crime against humanity, he retracted his statement, after Tutu asked him to.

Speaking through his foundation on February 17, de Klerk declared apartheid "totally unacceptable" and conceded that the UN had previously highlighted that the era was indeed a humanitarian offence. He said he was sorry for causing "confusion, anger and hurt" with his words.

In spite of the subsequent retraction, de Klerk's denial of the grave and systematic abuses of apartheid has left a scar.

According to Calata, who lost his father to the apartheid state apparatus, "an apology should come out of de Klerk's mouth. It should not appear on some lifeless piece of paper that was most probably not even written by him. So, for me, there's no satisfaction, as there was no apology."

As journalist Tony Heard writes: "Doubts linger after such incidents, for anyone interested in the future social stability of South Africa."



Published in Opinion & Analysis

Angola’s National Bank (BNA) by September 2020 plans to announce the name of the company that will be responsible for the Mobile Transfers and Instant Messaging system to be introduced throughout the country, according to a request for information published on 26 April.

“As there is already a well-consolidated mobile telecommunications network in the Angolan market, the BNA intends to introduce a system of Mobile Transfers and Instant Messaging (STMI), which will be available in the entire country and accessible to the whole population, commonly known as Mobile Money,” said the central bank.

The opening of the requests for information is intended for drawing up a request for proposal (RFP) to select a technological operator for the entity that will be responsible for the technological management of the system, which will be a payment system operator based in Angola.

The payment system in Angola is currently based on the use of four payment tools (cheques, payment cards, credit transfers and direct debits) and is made up of four interbank subsystems, a system for payment of large sums and a securities settlement sub-system.

The interested entities must respond to the request for information from the BNA by 10 June 2020, the request for proposals will be launched on 24 June with a response deadline of 31 July. In August there will be on-site visits and demonstrations, and the final decision of the selection process is scheduled for September 2020.

With this request for information, the BNA intends to secure information on which to base its “selection of a solid and reputable company experienced in the management and operation” of this type of system.



Published in Bank & Finance

The Lagos State Government has shortlisted 10 firms from the 32 respondents to the expression of interest that applied for the construction of the Fourth Mainland Bridge.

The firms include CCECC Nigeria Limited; CGGC-CGC Joint Venture; China Harbour Engineering Company Limited; China State Construction Engineering Corporation Nigeria Limited; IC ICTAS Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. and Ingenieros Consultores, S.A., through Makais Energy.

Others are Julius Berger Nigeria Plc; Mota-Engil and CCCC Consortium; Mutual Commitment Company Limited and Power Construction Corporation of China.

This was contained in a statement jointly signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Aramide Adeyoye and the Director-General, Office of Public-Private Partnerships, Ope George.

“Following the issuance of request for qualification to the 32 shortlisted and eligible respondents to the expression of interest, we are pleased to announce that the Lagos State Government has received a total of 10 responses to the request for qualification (the applications) from the applicants,” the statement said

“The Lagos State Government will now proceed to evaluate the applications in line with the evaluation criteria set out in the request for qualification and thereafter announce the successful pre-qualified bidders, who shall be eligible for participation in the next stage of the selection/bidding process, being the request for proposals stage.”


- The Guardian Nigeria

Published in Economy
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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