Displaying items by tag: South Africa

Zimbabweans and other African Nationals based in South Africa face being elbowed out of that country after authorities adopted a nationalistic policy to favour locals on jobs, an official said.

Million of South Africans face losing jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak and last week President Ramaphosa announced a R500 billion package to bail out industry and protect jobs.

South African Finance minister, Tito Mboweni, at the weekend, was quoted as having said his government would only provide financial support to companies that would lean towards a new unwritten employment policy that favours more nationals as compared to foreigners.

Mboweni was quoted as saying: “The proportion of South Africans working in a restaurant must be greater than that of non-South Africans… The new economy after lockdown must prioritise South Africans, but this must not discriminate against non-South Africans either.”

He reportedly added: “We will assist those who show a willingness to hire staff from SA… Every spaza shop must be licensed to operate, must have a bank account and registered for tax and open itself up for health inspections from the Department of Health.”

The statement, analysts noted, could become a catalyst for a new round of xenophobic attacks.

In a statement to the NewsDay, Constance Chemwayi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said Mboweni’s statement was a reflection of the new policy thrust that Zimbabwe’s neighbours could take going forward, adding there could be need to utilise communication channels available to the two governments to settle the issue in the event disturbances broke out in South Africa over jobs.

“The South African minister (Mboweni) mooted the policy trajectory that his government might use,” she said.

“The Ministry (of Foreign Affairs in Zimbabwe) would fully respect the policy position that the government of South Africa would adopt. Every country has the sovereign right to take measures they deem necessary.

“Our two countries and governments enjoy excellent relations and we have mechanisms and channels to discuss matters of mutual interest to our two countries,” she added.

Chemwayi said Zimbabwe was ready to ensure its nationals were safe in the event xenophobic attacks recurred.

“However, in the event that xenophobia attacks ensue, the government of Zimbabwe; through our embassy in South Africa will ensure that the interests of Zimbabweans in South Africa are protected,” Chemwayi added.

In an interview from his base in South Africa late yesterday, Bongani Mkhwananzi, the spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said Mboweni’s statement could “cause a lot of problems.”

“The minister might have spoken too soon and let the cat out of the bag on an issue that is sensitive. We believe this statement might create a lot of problems for our people (Zimbabweans) who are here in South Africa.

“As a matter of fact, the hotel and catering industry here is in the hands of mostly Zimbabweans. This is because they can adapt to very difficult situations which include strict regulations, low pay, and many other issues.

“There are a lot of exploitative mechanisms that are at play here in South Africa and we wonder whether the locals will be able to withstand the situation, according to the minister’s declaration,” Mkhwananzi said.


Credit– News Day

Published in Business

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

South Africans “celebrate” Freedom Day through gritted teeth, with a wry smile and an acute sense of irony, this year. Many, if not most, will be lamenting the loss of freedom due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

For most professionals, there will be no public holiday, since days slide seamlessly into one another, punctuated only by an endless succession of Zoom appointments and regular bouts of existential crisis and unease about lack of productivity.

For working class South Africans, the angst will cut even deeper, as food will have run out, accompanied in many cases by an even deeper fear about the future. They may be asking themselves, “will I ever work again?”. Both bemoan the ban on alcohol sales.

Twenty-six years ago black South Africans voted for the first time. Twenty-five years ago, a freshly minted democratic parliament was immersed in the process of writing a final constitution – one that contains a bill of rights that is widely admired by legal scholars and human rights activists across the globe.

It contains 26 rights, many of which have seen active service in the years since the constitution came into effect in early 1997. The constitution, including the charter of rights enshrined in chapter 2, is inevitably and appropriately the subject of frequent, deep and sometimes bitter contestation. Rights have frequently been claimed by individuals and communities to defend themselves from irrational, unreasonable or otherwise unlawful conduct by both state and private sector entities.

Read more: Is South Africa's Constitutional Court protecting democracy?

But these human rights victories may be far from front of mind this particular Freedom Day, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Democratic governments throughout the world have been compelled to claim rarely used powers and authority and limit freedoms in response to the threat posed by a deadly virus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa chose to invoke the provisions of the Disaster Management Act at a relatively early stage, on 15 March. This extended the authority of his government so that it can impose restrictions on, for example, the number of people who may gather in any one place.

Consequently, citizens have had to accept stringent restrictions on their normal civil liberties. South Africa’s lockdown is one of the “hardest” in the world. Everyone except for “essential workers” is confined to home, permitted out only when buying food or medicine.

Freedom curtailed

For South Africans, especially black South Africans old enough to remember the pre-1994 era of apartheid rule, this must be especially hard to bear. The sight and sound of the police and the army patrolling the streets to enforce the lockdown regulations must surely stir a painful sense of déjà vu.

The need to have a permit to move from town to town or province to province, or simply to transport produce, is perhaps even more evocative – redolent of JM Coetzee’s novel The Life and Times of Michael K.

Clearly, the right to freedom of movement enshrined in section 21 of the bill of rights is now severely curtailed.

Several other rights are now, in effect, also suspended or limited. Most obviously, the right to freedom of assembly: congregations present a real risk of increasing transmission of the disease, as President Ramaphosa pointed out in his most recent address to the nation.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has imposed one of the most stringent COVID-19 lockdowns. EFE-EPA/Jerome De Lay

Equally self-evidently, the right to freedom to trade is curtailed. Most businesses and places of work are required to be closed, unless they are providing an essential service. And students are currently denied the right to education, since schools and university campuses are closed.

Other, more subtle, limitations will apply; for example, to the right to privacy. A crisis of this scale and danger may justify greater intrusion into people’s online and cellular telephonic personae. Substantially reduced levels of data protection, ordinarily a matter of very great concern, may well be justified.

Infringement and protection

This provides an interesting example of how rights’ infringement may cut both ways. As The Guardian has reported, digital surveillance has been a crucial part of South Korea’s apparently successful response to the threat of COVID-19.

Clearly, there is an upside; and a legal justification for the infringement of rights.

On one level, there is nothing extraordinary about this. Rights are not absolute. In a constitutional democracy such as South Africa’s they can be lawfully limited, provided the limitation passes the test in section 36 of the constitution. This includes the principle of proportionality. In essence, this means that the government may only use the least restrictive measure for achieving its aim, the one that causes least damage to protected rights and interests.

Similarly, the regulations issued in a national disaster must comply with the provisions of the bill of rights. A court can declare specific regulations unconstitutional if they impose limitations on rights in a way not justified by the limitation clause.

The execution of Ramaphosa’s five-level “risk-adjusted” exit strategy could well give rise to constitutional litigation if the regulations that give effect to it are either unclear or unfair.

At this point, both the right to equality (and equal treatment) and the right to trade could come into play.

If there is a big surge in COVID-19 infections and illness, then the right to access to health care would be relevant in ensuring that everyone gets the treatment that they need to recover from the virus.

Right to life

Above all, perhaps, the bill of rights protects the right to life. As the lockdown begins slowly to ease, it will be worth remembering that the constraints on freedom were and remain justifiable on this ground alone.

COVID-19 represents a deadly threat to life and to livelihoods. In this sense, it threatens freedom in the most fundamental fashion. And the government is obliged to protect its citizens, limiting civil liberties in defence of freedom.

Read more: Zimbabwe's shattered economy poses a serious challenge to fighting COVID-19

The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 will be deep and could denude many people of their right to human dignity and substantive equality. That impact, in itself, undermines the notion of transformative constitutionalism that underpins South Africa’s constitutional settlement and the concept of freedom hinged with equality and human dignity that the Constitution articulates.

South Africans will not be feeling particular free and probably not especially inclined to contemplate more nuanced, philosophical interpretations of freedom as they celebrate Freedom Day, even though the post-COVID world will likely present competing conceptions of liberty.

They are not alone. Throughout the world, billions of people are having to adjust to a “new normal”. For how long, and to what extent, civil liberties should be limited or suspended will depend in large measure on the future trajectory of the coronavirus.

Active vigilance will be required to ensure continued restrictions are fully justified and the pandemic is not used as an excuse to impose authoritarian rule in service of devious and despotic political purposes.

Many times in the country’s modern, democratic era the bill of rights has proved to be more than just a piece of paper. For South Africans, hard-won rights will be vigorously defended, just as the limitations on freedom will be scrutinised every step of the way.

Only the secret and not-so-secret autocrats, extreme-right nationalists and populist authoritarian demagogues will want the bill of rights to fall victim to this pernicious pandemic.The Conversation


Richard Calland, Associate Professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town

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

Published in Economy

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1, with travel restrictions eased and some industries allowed to operate under a five-level risk system.

Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council decided restrictions will be lowered from level 5 - the strictest lockdown stage - to level 4 from next Friday. International borders will remain closed while travel will be only allowed for essential services.

“We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow, we must avoid a rushed reopening that could risk a spread which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address.

South Africa has spent nearly month under restrictions requiring most of the population to stay at home apart from essential trips, leaving many struggling without wages and short of supplies.

The country has recorded 3,953 confirmed cases including 75 deaths with 143,570 people tested for the virus. Thursday saw the highest one-day leap in infections with 318 new cases, though the health ministry said this was largely due to intensified screening.

“We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives,” Ramaphosa said.

He did not give details, as expected, on the 500-billion rand ($26 billion) rescue package he announced on Tuesday. But in the speech he said it was a priority to get the economy restarted and that testing would continue to be ramped up while social distancing rules remained in place.

Under the “risk-adjusted” system, authorities will identify which sectors can operate under various risk scenarios.

“We will implement what we call a risk-adjusted strategy, through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions,” said Ramaphosa.



Published in Economy

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an R500 billion ($26bn) stimulus package to deal with the devasting economic impact of COVID-19 and a 35-day lockdown.

He said the money would come from its adjustment budget, the Unemployment Insurance Fund and multilateral institutions.

The World Bank, the New Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank have been approached for funding.

Measures introduced to assist the economy include:

  • R20 billion to assist efforts that address the pandemic.
  • R20 billion for municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless.
  • A six-month temporary COVID-19 grant of R50 billion. This means that child support grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month. All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 per month for the next six months.
  • A special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for the next 6 months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.
  • R100 billion for protection of jobs and to create jobs.
  • R40 billion for income support payments for workers whose employers are not able to pay their wages.
  • R200 billion loan guarantee scheme to be introduced to help businesses pay salaries, rents and suppliers. Companies with a turnover of less than R300 million a year can participate.

A phased approach will be taken to reopen the economy of which Ramaphosa said he will address the nation on Thursday.

Credit: CNBC

Published in Economy

The 35-day lockdown period to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, will have a major impact on the 525,000 small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) in South Africa, putting 6.6 million jobs at risk.

This is according to Adrian Gore, a member of the CEO Initiative, chairman of the SA SME Fund, and chief executive officer of Discovery, who said: “Given the lockdown, the vast majority are unable to pay their rent, utilities, and importantly, their employees.

“Initial surveys indicate that 60% of SMEs are either considering retrenching employees, or already have. This is a significant threat to the SA economy, with many millions of jobs at risk.”

The CEO Initiative, which was established in 2016 as a collaboration between government and business to address some of the most pressing challenges to the country’s economic growth, is supporting the call of Business for SA (BSA) for all large companies to pay their SME creditors by Monday 20 April 2020.

Sim Tshabalala, a member of the CEO Initiative, and chief executive officer of Standard Bank, said: “These are extraordinary times that require extraordinary commitment from CEOs and large corporates. The Government has asked South Africans to stay home under a 35-day lockdown. This is tough for every individual, and every business, but most especially difficult for small and
medium enterprises.”

“They are under enormous strain and we are already seeing many businesses having to close their doors, which has a significant impact on their ability to sustain their employees.

“Even outside of the lockdown, many of these businesses often do not have the cash flow needed in order to maintain sustainability. We believe early payment is the right thing to do and will have a significant impact on their ability to survive and keep paying their employees.”

University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) visiting lecturer in corporate finance, Brett Hamilton, said the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to business failures, with the SA Reserve Bank estimating an additional 1,600 business insolvencies this year, while the “fattest” – those with the strongest cash reserves – will likely survive.

“We find ourselves in one of the most uncertain periods of human history. It is blurring the lines between business, government and society. Policymakers are confronted with an unprecedented, and impossible, trade-off between public health and economic growth.

“Given the speed and uncertainty under which these complex decisions are made, we have seen unprecedented actions from governments, central banks and businesses. In many cases, governments have overstepped their usual political and ideological boundaries and business has somewhat embraced stakeholders over shareholders.

“Fighting the spread of the coronavirus requires ‘big government’ and ‘business with a heart’ to work together – it may be expected and the right thing to do in a crisis, but the question is if these roles will remain after the pandemic,” he said.

Hamilton, a director at First River Capital, said cashflow is “the lifeblood of any organisation” but lockdown has severely restricted businesses’ ability to generate cash through operations, while accessing cash through debt or equity investment are limited in the current economic climate, and possibly unwise.

The latest downgrade by Moody’s of South Africa’s credit rating to sub-investment grade severely restricts the country’s access to debt and has seen a spike in the cost of debt, he said, noting that the South African 10-year government bond yield reached a maximum of 12.36% on 24 March compared with a low of 7.9% in 2018.

“So, debt may do more harm than good during these times, even with the debt relief pledges made by banks,” he said.

This leaves “Alpha companies” – large, mature and cash-flush – in prime position to weather the storm, buy out their competitors and continue to invest for growth after the pandemic, he said.

“Markets will become more concentrated and the position of incumbents more entrenched. The business world will look different after the pandemic and it will most likely fall on governments to regulate the new ‘Alphas’ to ensure better competition.

“If it should do so and how it should be achieved remains to be seen,” he said.

Hamilton noted that during the pandemic we have seen many companies shift to a more socialist stance, offering free products, expertise and financial aid to their employees and to other virus-related efforts.

Is this perhaps the dawn of a new social contract?

Hamilton pointed to a 2017 report funded by the South Africa Department of Trade and Industry and published by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development which held that South African companies were accumulating reserves as opposed to investing it in the economy and, thus, stimulating economic growth.

The report noted that between 2005 and 2016, the cash reserves of the top 50 companies on the JSE increased from R242 billion to R1.4 trillion and called for policy intervention from government to stimulate domestic investment by these companies and put an end to the “investment strike”.

He said that while there were counter-arguments to this – that “cash hoarding” was a myth and merely a reflection of the business environment at the time – if government policy had been used then to force South African companies to spend their cash holdings, fewer would now be in a position to weather the current storm.

“This could support the view for lower government involvement in business and the protection of the free market. That being said, government intervention during the pandemic has not only been welcomed by many, but in most cases has been expected.

“Similar to the financial crisis of 2008/9, governments have moved to act to protect the free market, but in many countries the interventions for the coronavirus have been more radical.

“Putting a freeze on the free market by way of lockdown is counter to the political and economic ideologies of many countries, but they have acted nonetheless,” he said.

Hamilton said that government intervention should also focus on the ability of the economy to recover after lockdown has lifted – “to ensure that enough businesses remain standing and that people are employed through the crisis to quicken the pace of recovery after the pandemic”.

“What is required is the ability for companies to maintain payroll, gain access to debt financing and for central banks to provide the latitude for banks to reschedule loans (possibly with forbearance through credit guarantees).

For this, governments must pull out all stops in terms of fiscal action,” Hamilton said.

With South Africa’s “limited fiscal latitude”, external finance would be required and should be accessed from as many sources as possible, including bonds, accessing the capital market, as well as a reliance on development banks such as the IMF.


Culled from 

Published in Business

South Africa will allow mines to operate at 50% capacity during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to amended government regulations published on Thursday.

The government had ordered most underground mines and furnaces to be put on care and maintenance during the lockdown, which started on March 27 and has been extended until the end of April, apart from coal mines supplying state power utility Eskom.

Miners have been lobbying the government to allow them to resume production with controls in place to detect and contain COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of chrome ore, accounts for around 70% of global mined platinum supply and is a major producer of other minerals and metals.

The lockdown has affected global commodities markets since several local miners have cut their production plans or declared force majeure.

Mines minister Gwede Mantashe told a news conference that the government knew there were risks if some deep-level mines were closed for an extended period.

“In the amendment we are identifying a risk, particularly in deep mining, (that) if they are left alone for a long time the stability of the ground gets tampered with,” he said.

South Africa is home to some of the world’s deepest mines, some of which are nearly 4 kilometres deep.

The amended regulations say mines will be allowed to restart and ramp up capacity depending on conditions including the screening of employees for COVID-19 symptoms, the availability of quarantine facilities and transport arrangements for workers.

Cooperative affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the government planned to ease other lockdown restrictions in an “orderly, incremental manner”.

“We are going to be probably every week announcing which areas are being opened and the conditions of those openings,” she said. “Industries will have to slowly come on stream.”

As of Thursday South Africa had reported 2,506 people infected with the coronavirus and 34 deaths.

Published in Engineering

Several African governments on Sunday closed borders, canceled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which has a foothold in at least 26 countries on the continent as cases keep rising.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and warned the outbreak could have a “potentially lasting” impact on the continent’s most-developed economy, which is already in recession.

Measures to be taken there include barring travel to and from countries such as Italy, Germany, China and the United States.

“Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa,” he said, adding that South Africans who visited targeted countries would be subjected to testing and quarantine when returning home.

South Africa, which has recorded 61 cases, will also prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people, Ramaphosa said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said his government was suspending travel from any country with reported COVID-19 cases.

“Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits will be allowed to come in, provided they proceed on self-quarantine,” he told the nation in a televised address.

The ban would take effect within 48 hours and remain in place for at least 30 days, he said.

Schools should close immediately and universities by the end of the week, he added. Citizens would be encouraged to make cashless transactions to cut the risk of handling contaminated money.

Kenya and Ethiopia have now recorded three and four cases respectively, authorities in each nation said on Sunday, two days after they both reported their first cases.

In West Africa, Ghana will ban entry from Tuesday to anyone who has been to a country with more than 200 coronavirus cases in the past 14 days, unless they are an official resident or Ghanaian national. Ghana has recorded six cases.

President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a televised Sunday evening address that universities and schools will be closed from Monday until further notice. Public gatherings will be banned for four weeks, he said, though private burials are allowed for groups of less than 25 people.

In southern Africa, Namibia ordered schools to close for a month after recording its first two cases on Saturday.

Djibouti, which has no confirmed case of COVID-19, said on Sunday it was suspending all international flights. Tanzania, which also has no cases yet, canceled flights to India and suspended school games.

Other nations have also shuttered schools, canceled religious festivals and sporting events to minimize the risk of transmission. Some 156,500 people worldwide have been infected and almost 6,000 have died.



Published in Travel & Tourism

The increasing cost of labour and electricity is an increasing challenge for the manufacturing sector in South Africa.

The demand for opportunities to learn from best international practice in order to survive and keep the doors open is bigger than ever. There are, however, opportunities for improvement and learning for local manufacturers.

The world’s longest running benchmarking contest for the international manufacturing sector is now in its 28th year and, for the second year, also be open for manufacturers in South Africa.

The Factory of the Year competition was first initiated in Germany in 1992 by Kearney, a management consultancy that advises manufacturing companies around the world on competitive strategies to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

Local support for the competition from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows that the process offers invaluable insight into the South African industrial landscape.

 “Globally, manufacturing is becoming increasingly competitive, with automation and robotics transforming manufacturing processes to deliver greater efficiencies and outputs. So, achieving world-class excellence is a priority for any manufacturing concern,” says Igor Hulak, partner at Kearney. 

South Africa’s manufacturing sector is facing unprecedented challenges. In the early 1990s, the country’s manufacturing sector contributed 22% to its GDP, while today, its contribution has declined to only 2%. Factories face the challenges of increased labour and electricity costs, while the consumer market has slowed, and global players compete against local pricing.

With its economic challenges and growth pressures, achieving global excellence in South Africa becomes even more important explains Hulak. “We believe that Factory of the Year has a crucial role to play in helping South African companies to understand and analyse their strengths and weaknesses, against global benchmarks, as well as improve their efficiencies and outputs, ensuring that they are not left behind by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

He adds that a key incentive for entering the competition is that, following the assessment process, factories will receive feedback against global benchmarks about where they can achieve greater efficiencies, and where their drawbacks lie. “This feedback from is invaluable in helping companies to work towards these benchmarks and continue to target excellence in the years to come.”

“Factory of the Year is much more than a competition, it is bringing about consciousness of future manufacturing in South Africa, trends and examples of Industry 4.0 solutions that work,” says Ilse Karg, chief director of future industrial production technologies at the DTI.  

The event is further supported by the Manufacturing Circle, the Manufacturing Indaba and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Entrants should visit the website, www.safactoryoftheyear.co.za, to download the questionnaire. Due to a number of requests from the industry and the time required to complete the questionnaire that includes production statistics and other metrics, the entry date for the Factory of the Year competition has been extended to 31 March 2020.

The questionnaire covers six categories: customer satisfaction, quality, value creation, economics, agility, and innovation.

Once a factory makes it onto the shortlist, a Factory of the Year representative will conduct a site visit to verify the information provided, observe how the factory is working, and identify possible improvement areas. They take these results to a jury, made up of members of the DTI, CSIR, Manufacturing Circle and Manufacturing Indaba. The 2020 winners will be announced at the Indaba in June.

While it is clear from the GDP contribution of South Africa’s manufacturing sector that there is room for improvement in this sector, Saunders says that there are some standout pockets of excellence in the South African context.

“These star performers are focusing on moving to digital and driving efficiency, and it is these that we want to find and award in Factory of the Year,” he says. “We’re looking forward to celebrating excellence in South African manufacturing for a second year running – and also to continuing to help those facing economic headwinds to overcome obstacles and identify necessary improvements to support their global competitiveness in 2020.”

Published in Business
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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