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Article by: Bradley Dubbelman
Published: 09 Mar 2012
|News this week|
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will come to the rescue of a nuclear industry, still struggling for customers a year after Japan's Fukushima disaster, with a tender for one of the world's biggest atomic power deals. Firms from France, the US, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia have been lining up for years for a chance to win the contract worth between R400-billion and a R1-trillion. Chances to build reactors have grown fewer after the Fukushima accident, with many developed States trying to wean themselves off nuclear. "It has become close to a buyers market and not a sellers market, which it was before Fukushima," says H. Holger Rogner, section head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's planning and economic studies section. South African officials expect to open the bidding in the next few months for 9 600 MW of nuclear power - or about the normal output of six reactors. Africa's largest economy is operating on razor thin electricity margins and needs the power to grow its energy-intensive mining sector and manufacturing. Potential bidders are likely to include Areva, EDF, Toshiba's Westinghouse Electric Corp, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, South Korea's Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) and Russia's Rosatom. In a budget proposal released last month, South Africa penciled in 300 billion rand for the nuclear build, but the figure was just the start, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters says. "It's not a thumb suck and we don't actually say that is the end amount, but we believe that it is the beginning," she adds.
CAPE TOWN – The South African government showed little sign of changing its stance on the e-tolling of Gauteng’s upgraded motorways. In a statement issued the day after the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) led a well-supported national protest on the issue (as well as to call for a ban on labour brokers), Cabinet stresses that “considerable” fiscal support has already been given to the project. It says that following consultations with various stakeholders in business and civil society, nearly R6-billion had been allocated in the 2012 Budget to minimise the impact of e-tolling on consumers – the fees for motorists have also been capped at R550 a month. Government will continue to hold discussions with stakeholders to “explain in even greater details its position on the matter”. Cabinet again stresses that poor citizens using taxis and buses will not be affected by e-tolling and will pass through the gantries free of charge. But Cosatu is still threatening to make e-tolling “ungovernable” should the system be introduced as planned on April 30, while various other organisations are considering legal action to halt the project. Meanwhile, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) also put out a statement dismissing suggestions that it will gain “uncontrolled access” to the bank accounts of those registering for e-tolling. Even those opting to pay using an automated credit card system could regulate their account by setting predetermined top-up threshold levels, Sanral says.
JOHANNESBURG – The ruling African National Congress (ANC) wants greater government control over Africa’s largest economy, a windfall levy on mining firms and a rapid expansion in the services offered by postal banks, it says in policy documents. The documents from the party that has ruled the country since apartheid ended 18 years ago will be used to frame debate when the ANC holds a policy meeting in June. Since it commands a comfortable majority in Parliament, its policy recommendations are often turned into legislation. “We need to ask ourselves whether simply more of the same will help us transform the economy so as to address the challenges of unemployment, poverty, inequality and growth,” the party says. The ANC did not offer a great deal of detail but says it wants to see State-owned enterprises being centres of job creation. It backs government’s plans to spend billions over the next several years on infrastructure projects to increase the enterprises’ output and create employment. Economists have said the ANC is looking in the wrong direction and should be doing more to support the private sector, which is subject to a raft of labour regulations seen as stifling job growth and ranked as among the globe’s most restrictive by the World Economic Forum. Almost all the State-owned enterprises have had management crises and financial difficulties in the past few years, raising questions about their ability to be drivers of growth. The ANC says the country is rich in commodities, but that “the crucial mineral economic linkages were not being maximised and that the State was not receiving an equitable share of the resource rents”. The party has tried to reassure investors that it is not seeking a government takeover of mines – a plan backed by some radical elements in the party.
JOHANNESBURG – South African political rebel Julius Malema will appeal a decision to suspend him from the ruling African National Congress (ANC), saying he is being persecuted for his calls to nationalise mines and seize white-owned farmland, his Youth League says. The ANC has decided to expel Malema, the leader of its youth wing, for violating party rules, causing rifts in the group and bringing the movement into disrepute. Members of the influential Youth League shot back at their parent organisation, as the rift between party head President Jacob Zuma and the more radical youth movement widened. “The ANC Youth League will never agree that its leadership be subjected to unfair and unjust treatment or banished for narrow political purposes,” its says in a statement read at a news conference by its deputy president, Ronald Lamola. Malema, dressed in a T-shirt, sunglasses and what his league describes as a “revolutionary beret”, was present but kept silent through the briefing. Malema, one of the party’s best orators, whose calls for radical transformation of Africa’s biggest economy resonated with poor blacks, has increasingly criticised Zuma. His removal will help clear a path for Zuma to win a second term as ANC leader in party elections later this year. It will also silence a vocal advocate of taking over mines in the resource-rich country.
Africa & the world
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has praised the African State of Ghana as a model of democracy and growth in a continent that many Americans associate with poverty and violence. "There's sometimes a tendency to focus on the challenges that exist in Africa – and rightfully so," says Obama, who sat beside Ghana's president, John Atta Mills, in the Oval Office. "But I think it's important for us to also focus on the good news that's coming out of Africa, and I think Ghana continues to be a good-news story," he says, warmly thanking Mills for the hospitality shown the US first family when the Obamas visited the country in 2009. Ghana, the world's second biggest cocoa producer, posted double-digit growth in 2011 and is one of the more stable countries in West Africa. The US President commended Mills for his action on human rights and governance, voicing Washington's approval of the stability that Ghana provides in a fragile region of Africa. Its neighbor, Ivory Coast, suffered months of violence last year after a disputed election, and other near-neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone experienced years of brutal conflict. "Ghana has proven, I think, to be a model for Africa in terms of its democratic practices," says Obama, noting that both leaders faced re-election in 2012. Mills told Obama, "We are going to ensure that there is peace before, during, after the election, because when there is no peace, it's not the elitists who will suffer, it's the ordinary people who have elected us into office."
DAMASCUS – Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League special envoy on Syria, says he will urge President Bashar al-Assad and his foes to stop fighting and seek a political solution to the conflict, drawing angry rebukes from dissidents. The turmoil prompted Syria's deputy oil minister to change sides in the first defection by a senior civilian official since the start of a popular uprising against Assad. Abdo Hussameldin says he knew his move would bring persecution on his family. In another sign of mounting pressure on Syria, the national currency fell as low as 100 pounds to the dollar from about 47 a year ago. Dealers in Damascus say the pound plunged about 13% in the last 24 hours on fears of US military action. "As I move to Syria, we will do whatever we can to urge and press for a cessation of hostilities and end to the killing and violence," Annan, due in Damascus on Saturday, says in Cairo. "But of course, ultimately the solution lies in a political settlement," the former UN secretary-general said before talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby. "We will be urging the government and a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition to come together to work with us to find a solution that will respect the aspirations of the Syrian people." Syrian activists, who say calls for dialogue only give Assad more time to suppress them, bitterly criticised Annan's remarks. "That seems like a wink at Bashar," said an activist in the northwestern province of Idlib, who gave his name only as Mohammed. "They are supposed to be with the people, but this will pressure Assad to crush the revolution."
MOGADISHU – The United Nations (UN) Security Council has expressed grave concern over the threat posed by Somali pirates and extremist groups as UN chief Ban Ki-moon warns that the African State’s humanitarian situation will likely deteriorate again in the coming months. For the past two decades, Somalia has been engulfed in anarchy, chaos and conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that fighting, famine and disease have killed up to a million people since Somalia’s last government collapsed in 1991. The international community has become increasingly concerned about Somalia becoming a leading global haven for Islamist militancy and the rising toll of Somali piracy, estimated to cost the global economy some $7-billion a year. “The Security Council remains gravely concerned about the ongoing threat posed by piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia,” the UN council says in a statement that also recognises that instability has contributed to the problem. “The Security Council remains gravely concerned about the threat posed to Somalia and the international community by terrorist attacks by Somali armed opposition groups,” it says.