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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa promises
to embark on a series of urgent economic reforms

by Zodidi Mhlana JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- With South Africa’s slow economic growth, stubborn unemployment, President Cyril Ramaphosa has told the Goldman Sachs investors conference that his government would focus on economic reforms set to unlock the economic potentials and create jobs.

In a discussion with Goldman Sachs for Sub Saharan Africa CEO Colin Coleman on Wednesday in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said fixing the economy first would solve other pressing problems.

"The key problem we have as a country is low economic growth, everything revolves around the economy.

"We need to focus on ways of revitalizing the economy, the key mandate is to create jobs," he said.

Since Ramaphosa was elected as ANC president, economists have been saying South Africa must clarify its policy stance.

The president said that policy certainty is crucial in attracting investors and dealing with other bottlenecks hindering investment.

Ramaphosa said reforms would be implemented at struggling state-owned enterprises such as power utility Eskom, adding that the company was being structured and the government could not allow it to collapse.

"Load shedding is over.

"Eskom is the only company in the history of South Africa to have debt of 430 billion Rand (30.3 billion US dollars).

"Eskom is too big, important to fail.

"If Eskom fails, the economy will fail," he said.

"We will precede and clean up Eskom.

"At fiscal level, we must be able to reduce expenditure," he said.

He told delegates that a policy unit which existed under former President Thabo Mbeki would be revived to ensure that policies are successfully implemented.

This policy unit would fall under Presidency.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

South African union federation calls high unemployment "ticking time bomb"

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Stubbornly high unemployment in South Africa is like "a ticking time bomb" that would spell calamity for the country, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) warned on Tuesday.

Workers expect to see the government place massively reducing unemployment at the heart of all government programs, from national to provinces to municipalities to state-owned enterprises (SOEs), said COSATU, the country’s largest union federation with more than 3 million members.

Earlier on Tuesday, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released its Quarterly Labor Force Survey for the first quarter of 2019, which shows that the country’s unemployment has risen by 0.5 percentage points to 27.6 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.

The increase in the unemployment rate is a result of decline of 237,000 in the number of people in employment and an increase of 62,000 in the number of people who were unemployed between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, according to the survey.

This came on the heels of the Spectator Index in January which revealed that South Africa is the country with the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, with about 52.8 percent of young people unemployed.

Spectator Index is a weekly British magazine on politics, culture and current affairs.

"This is calamitous for the country because it means millions of young people will be dependent on the state for their well being and that of their families," COSATU national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

The political leaders and the government entrusted with managing the economy should hang their heads in shame because the inequities of their favored economic system has condemned thousands of South Africans to lives of brute survival and hopelessness, said Pamla.

South Africa needs an economic development model that will dismantle the current colonial and apartheid economic and social policy paradigm that is unsustainable, Pamla said.

"We need an economic trajectory that will ensure that there is a proper redistribution of income and that more people are allowed to participate in the economy," he said.

The last two decades have shown that all of this cannot be left at the hands of the market and the notion that foreign direct investment (FDI) is everything, Pamla said.

COSATU has been critical of the regressive and contractionary policies pursued by the government.

The federation says these policies only focus on cutting social expenditure and weaken the capacity of the state.

The deceleration of fiscal spending since 2014 and now the outright reduction of spending plunged the economy into the doldrums in an environment of depressed private sector investment and household spending, according to COSATU.

The government cannot keep applying the same macroeconomic framework that led the country to this current position and still go on with the rhetoric about the centrality of job creation and the transformation of the economy, Pamla said.

"We hope that this unemployment report will jolt the government and business into action," he said.

Also on Tuesday, the South African government vowed to tackle rising unemployment through a series of interventions.

The high rate of unemployment is a serious concern to the government, but there are a number of interventions that are being implemented to revive and stimulate economic growth, government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

Decisive steps are being taken including rebuilding investor confidence, ending corruption, restoring good governance and strengthening critical public institutions, she said.

Unemployment requires all sectors of society to work together to address this challenge, said Williams.

"All South Africans must join hands and make an extraordinary effort to overcome the economic challenges we face," she said.

South Africa hosted the Jobs Summit in October which brought together government, business, labor and community organizations to seek solutions to the country’s unemployment challenge.

Through this Jobs Summit, the government, labor, business and the community sector have agreed on concrete interventions to boost employment.

It’s estimated that these interventions will create an additional 275,000 direct jobs a year.
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South Africa plans to tackle rising unemployment
rate - registered at 27.6 per cent in First Quarter

CAPE TOWN (Xinhua) -- The South African government vowed on Tuesday to tackle rising unemployment through a series of interventions.

The high rate of unemployment is a serious concern to the government, however there are a number of interventions that are being implemented to revive and stimulate economic growth, government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

This came after Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) released its Quarterly Labor Force Survey for the first quarter of 2019, which shows that the country’s unemployment has risen by 0.5 percentage point to 27.6 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2018.

"The increase in the unemployment rate is a result of a decline of 237,000 in the number of people in employment and an increase of 62,000 in the number of people who were unemployed between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019," Stats SA said.

Statistician General Risenga Maluleke said the number of employed persons decreased in six of the ten industries, with the largest decreases recorded in construction which lost 142,000 jobs, followed by finance at 94,000.

However, the transport industry contributed 59,000 jobs, while trade created 25,000 and utilities 16,000.

Some economists predict the construction and mining sectors would continue bleeding jobs with some companies faced with financial challenges.

Government spokesperson Phumla Williams however said the government is implementing a range of measures towards a new path of economic growth, employment creation and socio-economic transformation.

Decisive steps are being taken including rebuilding investor confidence, ending corruption and state capture, restoring good governance and strengthening critical public institutions, she said.

"All South Africans must join hands and make an extraordinary effort to overcome the economic challenges we face," Williams said.

The South African economy must grow at a higher rate in order to create enough jobs and lift people out of poverty, she added.

South Africa hosted the Jobs Summit in October 2018 which brought together government, business, labor and community organizations to seek solutions to the country’s unemployment challenge.

Through this Jobs Summit, the government, labor, business and the community sectors have agreed on concrete interventions to boost employment.

It’s estimated that these interventions will create an additional 275,000 direct jobs a year.

"As a country we have placed economic growth and job creation at the centre of our national agenda," Williams said.

South Africa, she said, is on a journey to inclusive growth in transforming its business sector so it can have more people equally participating in the economy.
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South African government seeking partnership
with private sector to ensure power supply

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African government is seeking partnership with the private sector to ensure a sustainable energy supply, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday.

Calling such partnership "crucial," Radebe called on the private sector to work with the government in exploring opportunities for the development of affordable and clean energy.

Delivering his opening address at the 19th annual African Utility Week in Cape Town, Radebe said the partnership between the government and the private sector has bode well in the renewable sector.

More than 250 billion rand (about 17.6 billion U.S. dollars) of investment has now been injected into the green energy sector through this partnership, Radebe said.

About 6,000 megawatts of electricity came from the renewable sector, he said.

Radebe pledged to expand availability of renewable energy so that all South African citizens can be benefited.

South Africa, whose electricity supply is currently highly dependent on coal, has suffered from power insufficiency since 2008. Power cuts have become commonplace again since the beginning of this year, costing the economy billions of dollars.

According to the government’s estimates, the country needs at least 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2030.

Currently, state-run electricity utility Eskom provides about 95 percent of the electricity consumed in the country.

But poor management and alleged corruption have crippled the parastatal which often resorts to load shedding when it can not meet the growing demand for electricity.

There have been calls for the government to bring in independent power producers into the energy sector.

As the leading conference and trade exhibition for African power, energy and water professionals, the three-day event brought together thousands of decision makers to source the latest solutions.

Along with multiple side events and numerous networking functions, the event also boasts a strategic conference with over 300 expert speakers.
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South African eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede charged with massive corruption

South Africa JOHANNESBURG (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede appeared in the Durban Specialized Commercial Court on Tuesday, facing a raft of charges related to a Durban Solid Waste tender.

Gumede and councilor Mondli Mthembu are alleged to have colluded to corruptly award tenders of 208 million rand (about 14.6 million U.S.dollars) to their preferred companies.

EThekwini municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the municipality has noted the charges of fraud and corruption and the municipality abides by the legal principle of innocent until proven otherwise.

He pointed out that the arrest of council officials will not affect service delivery.

The mayor and the councilor were granted bail each following their brief appearance at court.
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Swine fever continues to spread in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The number of provinces which suffer from African Swine Fever outbreak has risen to four, said South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on Monday.

African Swine Fever was initially identified in North West and has spread to Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

The latest province to be affected by the outbreak is the Free State.

The origins of the outbreak are still being investigated.

Mpho Maja from the agriculture department told Xinhua that areas with the outbreak are quarantined.

"To contain it, we are working with the South African Pork Producers, that’s an ongoing work. We also advise what pig keepers should be doing to deal with it," she said.

Maja said that the same virus is responsible for the outbreak in all these regions.

Speaking to Xinhua about the outbreak, Johan Coetzee from the South African Pork Producers’ Organization said that small scale farmers have been hit the hardest by the outbreak.

"I just came from a farm where the latest Free State outbreak was identified, depopulation will take place on Wednesday.

"We are worried about the impact this will have on small scale farmers," he said.

Coetzee said that the outbreak which occurred in April has resulted in hundreds of animals being slaughtered.

He said they were working with the agriculture department to prevent the disease from spreading to more farms and regions.

"We need to stop the virus, we don’t want it to spread further," he said.

The Agriculture department has requested farmers to be cautious and report any illness and deaths of their pigs to veterinarians.

           

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