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South African government determined to implement
controversial national minimum wage   

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African government on Friday reaffirmed its determination to implement the controversial national minimum wage (NMW) which it hailed “as an instrument of economic and social development.”

“It is significant that South Africa will join several countries around the world that have implemented a national minimum wage as an instrument of economic and social development,” the Department of Labor said.

This came after the National Assembly passed the NMW Bill on Tuesday.

The Bill, along with the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill and the Labor Relations Amendment Bill, captures the agreements reached by the social partners on measures to strengthen labor stability and collective bargaining and on the modalities for the introduction of the first NMW, department spokesperson Teboho Thejane said.

The NMW Bill seeks to improve the lives of the lowest paid workers at the labor market and carries the promise of addressing the inequality and poverty challenge in South Africa, Thejane said.

The Bill establishes the NMW Commission which will recommend annual adjustments to the level of the NMW and review it on a regular basis in order to take into account the impact of the level on employment, collective bargaining, poverty and inequality.

The government has been pushing the NMW, which is 3,500 rand (about 280 U.S. dollars) per month or 20 rand (about 1.6 dollars) per hour for over six million working people.

The NMW, however, has met with strong opposition.

Trade unions have lambasted the NMW which they label as “slavery wage.” Early this month, massive protests against the NMW took place across the country. Trade unions threaten to stage more protests if the NMW is not raised to a living wage.

Thejane refuted the criticism, saying setting the level was an extremely delicate balancing act due to the fact that social partners had to ensure that the NMW be set at a level that will yield a meaningful impact on the wages of the lowest paid workers, while guarding against any negative impact on employment.

In order to demonstrate flexibility, the Bill includes provisions for businesses that may be unable to afford the NMW to apply for exemption, said Thejane.

The next step in the process will be for the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the Upper House of Parliament, to consider the Bill, Thejane said.

If the NCOP passes the Bill, it will be submitted to the President for assent at which point the date of implementation of the NMW is likely to be made known, he said.

If the NCOP amends or rejects the Bill, it will be referred back to the National Assembly, Thejane said.



Thousands of vulnerable South Africans still face dangers: president

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Thousands of vulnerable South Africans still face dangers as can be shown by a blaze that killed five children over night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.

Ramaphosa joined the nation in mourning the death of the five children killed in a fire in an informal settlement in Masiya, Cape Town. The fire ripped through 10 homes, displacing about 30 people.

The incident “is a tragedy that brings home the dangers faced by thousands of vulnerable South Africans, especially during winter,” said the president.

“This tragedy touches and affects all of us as South Africans, especially as we mark Youth Month during which our nation’s attention is focused on creating a better life for young people,” he said.

June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, paying tribute to the school pupils and ordinary citizens who lost their lives during a student uprising on June 16, 1976.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it was believed that the fire was probably the result of residents using a paraffin stove to keep warm.

Since 1994 when apartheid was brought to an end, the government has made significant strides in the development of human settlements but tragedies such as this still happen, Ramaphosa said.

These tragedies “remind all of us of the hard work yet to be done to ensure that there is housing, security and comfort for all South Africans,” he said.

Ramaphosa pledged that the government will  do its best to assist the affected families.

“We will also work with communities to promote safety measures at a time when many families use various forms of fuel and heating to keep warm,” he added.

South Africa always sees a spike in shack fires in winter when impoverished families burn wood or fuel to keep warm.

In a separate incident on Friday, two children were killed when a fire broke out at their home in the Enkanini informal settlement, also in Cape Town.

In the Spooktown informal settlement, Gauteng Province, three children were killed on Tuesday night when a blaze ripped through their home.

Lack of basic services, such as proper heating system and electricity, are some of the major factors that lead to shack fires.

People in informal settlements across the country stage protests against poor service delivery every year.

The opposition United Democratic Movement claims that the country experiences 30 service delivery protests a day.


South Africa association condemns violent protests by hospital medical staff

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African Medical Association (SAMA) on Friday strongly condemned the violent protests by medical staff on Thursday at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.

The medical staff on Thursday prevented patients from getting their medication and doctors from carrying out operations at the hospital. They also poured rubbish on the floors and threatened patients and some left without treatment.

“Hospitals should be places of safety, havens for the ill. Whatever the reasons, there can never be any justification of violence, especially when it impacts the safety and proper treatment of patients. The destruction of property is also beyond comprehension as this will take money and time to repair, which again places patient treatment and safety in jeopardy. This cannot be the new normal in our country,” said Mzukisi Grootboom, chairperson of SAMA.

The protestors were demanding their outstanding bonuses. SAMA said they understand the protestors have genuine concern and encouraged them to solve it through negotiations and dialogue.

Grootboom said the medical staff should not compromise the healthcare of the vulnerable. They also called on the department of health to resolve the matter speedily and amicably.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi visited the hospital on Thursday night. He said the hospital was scheduled to do 50 operations but only managed to do 19. Motsoaledi called the violent protestors hooligans. On Friday normalcy had returned to the medical center.


South Africa seeks to increase investment in energy sector

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African government on Friday said there is an increase in the renewable energy investment and they want to see more money put in the energy sector.

This was said by South Africa’s Energy Minister Jeff Radebe speaking at a stakeholder engagement in Johannesburg on Friday.

The meeting was attended by government officials, business, civil society and industry associations among others.

The country secured 10.8 billion U.S. dollars between 2014 to 2016, through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), said Radebe.

“This was significantly more than any other African state in the same period,” said the minister.

“More recently we have continued growing the renewable sector through the recent signing of the Independent Power Produce (IPP) agreements, securing 4.67 billion U.S. dollars of investment into 27 new projects,” Radebe said. “These 27 projects are making a significant contribution to government’s commitments to meaningful black ownership participation and economic transformation.”

The South African president have appointed a team of technocrats to source an investment of 100 billion U.S. dollars.

Radebe said they also want to promote natural gas by designing and building infrastructure required to transport natural gas and liquefied natural gas.

He said the country want to move towards cleaner fuels by improving refinery assets to meet world class emissions standards.

South Africa also wants to move towards the electrification of transport through strategic partnerships, he added.

“A new bid round of the Renewable Energy IPP programme will be launched in November 2018 and it is estimated to be 1,800 MW of similar technologies as in the expedited bid window. This could bring another 3 to 4.16 billion U.S. dollars of investment to the country,” said Radebe.


Indian foreign minister leaves for South Africa for BRICS meeting

NEW DELHI India (Xinhua) -- Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Saturday left for South Africa to attend the BRICS and the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) ministerial meetings.

During her visit to South Africa, the minister will also commemorate the 125th anniversary of India’s pre-independence icon Mahatma Gandhi’s eviction from a train’s “whites-only” coach that inspired him to launch struggle for freedom movement against the British in India.

On June 7, Swaraj along with 300 dignitaries, including leading South African politicians, will embark on a symbolic train ride from Pentrich station to Pietermaritzburg station to commemorate Gandhi’s eviction from the train on that day in 1893.

Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. In India, he is known as the Father of the Nation.


African swine fever outbreak reported in South Africa province

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on Thursday said there is an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF)  in the country’s Northern Cape province.

DAFF said they have put in place control measures to manage the outbreak. The disease was identified after some pigs were moved from Kimberley to the Northern Cape.

“Farmers and speculators are advised to only buy pigs that come from a healthy herd and avoid buying from unknown suppliers at auctions. Under no circumstances should swill (kitchen waste) be fed to pigs unless it has been boiled for an hour in order to inactivate the ASF virus and other diseases of concern,” said DAFF spokesperson Steve Galane.

African swine fever is a severe haemorrhagic disease of pigs. According to DAFF, pigs affected by the diseases die within a short space of time. The diseases can kill a high number of pigs within two to ten days.


Former South Africa president refutes allegations of forming a new political party

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma has dismissed allegations that he plans to form or join a new political party.

Speaking at his welcome home prayer organized by religious leaders in his hometown, eNkandla on Thursday, Zuma said, he “was not part of the new political party”.

On the state capture commission hearings, the former president told his supporters that he has a problem with the inquiry.

“There is a commission coming that will discuss state capture. And there are people that are opposing the movement. I have a problem with that as an individual,” Zuma told his supporters.

A pro-Zuma group said on Wednesday that they were considering a new political party with Zuma as the leader to take on the ANC votes. According to local media, the group, Mazibuyele Emasisweni, said they were in consultation with other members nationally to ensure that the party became a reality.

Meanwhile, the religious leaders in KwaZulu Natal have promised to come out in their thousands to support Zuma during his second court appearance in the High Court in Durban on Friday next week.

Edward Zuma, the former president’s son, also refuted the allegations that his father was planning to form a political party or support any new political party.

“The former president remains a committed member of the ANC. He will be campaigning for the ANC for the 2019 general elections and for the local government elections thereafter,” Edward Zuma said.

He says Jacob Zuma has taken offence to the reports. “People are still continuing in their pursuit to tarnish the name and the image of the former president.”

Jacob Zuma served as the country’s president between 2009 and 2018. He resigned on February 14 after a recall by his party.


UNHCR to launch Refugee Food Festival in Cape Town

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The 3rd Refugee Food Festival will be launched in Cape Town next month to help refugees facilitate their integration into local communities, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday.

It will be the first time that the festival is held outside Europe.

“The Refugee Food Festival - a novel idea - mobilizes citizens, local authorities, NGOs, restaurants, refugees and UNHCR to work together to help dispel myths around refugees,” said Adan Ilmi, Officer in Charge, UNHCR Regional Representation for Southern Africa.

“It also helps to facilitate their integration into the communities that welcome them and create a shared experience around the most hospitable of gestures - eating and enjoying food prepared by people from different parts of the world,” Ilmi said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

In addition to Cape Town, 13 other cities across the globe, including New York and San Francisco, will also launch the festival, scheduled for June 12-30.

This year, over 100 restaurants in these cities will open their kitchens to refugee chefs from Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and beyond, to cook unique dishes around World Refugee Day, which falls on June 20. Participating restaurants range from canteen style kitchens to world renowned Michelin-star restaurants, with food for everyone to enjoy.

This year’s festival will be co-organized by the UNHCR and Food Sweet Food, a French NGO created in 2013 to promote culinary traditions from around the world.

First held in Paris in 2016, the initiative has helped to positively change public perceptions of refugees by bringing together people from all walks of life around the dinner table thanks to the universal bonds of sharing food, the UNHCR said.

Food Sweet Food founders Marine Mandrila and Louis Martin said they realized the power of food to build cultural connections after having travelled across 18 countries and shared food around the dinner tables with dozens of men and women across the world.

“Through the Refugee Food Festival they want to show how culinary experiences allow us to break down barriers and discover each other’s worlds, by sharing what is both singular and universal: food,” the UNHCR said.

Many chefs who participated in the festival in previous years have launched careers in the food industry in their host countries as a result of the social and professional networks that have emerged out of the festival, according to the UNHCR.

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