This morning the Constitutional Court delivered a judgment in the Nkandla Application. In summary the Court found the following:
o That the recommendations of the Public Protector were binding
o That the binding nature of the Public Protector’s remedial action is determined on a case-by-case basis with regard to the nature of the dispute
o That the Public Protector’s remedial action cannot merely be ignored
o That the National Assembly’s institution of a parallel process was not itself unlawful but that in attempting to replace the binding report of the Public Protector, the National Assembly acted unconstitutionally and in breach of its duty to hold the executive accountable
o That the President should pay back a reasonable portion of the money spent on non-security upgrades and reprimand the responsible ministers for their role in the project.
o That the President acted unlawfully and in breach of his constitutional duties to the Republic Continue reading STATEMENT ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING: NKANDLA→
The Jesuit Institute has issued the following statement today:
The African National Congress (ANC) has historically shown leadership in challenging times. In the early 90’s the leadership of the ANC courageously took the steps needed to bring South Africa back from the brink of civil war. Now, more than ever since then, the ANC needs to courageously steer the country through a mounting crisis: allegations that President Jacob Zuma ceded his executive power to his rich friends – the Gupta family. These allegations are serious because they are a gross violation of his oath of office in which he promises to devote himself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people. Continue reading South Africa: Jesuit Institute urges ANC to ‘act for the common good’→
South African President Jacob Zuma has delivered his annual State of the Nation address in the country’s parliament. After more than an hour of disruptions and interruptions, mostly by members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters, Zuma finally got down to business. Or did he?
The Conversation Africa’s Politics and Society editor Thabo Leshilo and Voice of Wits presenter Tsholofelo Semenya put some questions to Professor Susan Booysen. You can listen to the audio or read the transcript below.
South Africa is quickly running out of maize as the El Nino drought deepens. Like many other countries in southern Africa, South Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades. As the current crop withers due to extreme heat and little rainfall, food prices are rising and may be out of reach for million.
A devastating drought caused by adverse effects of El Nino has left South Africa exposed to a serious food security threat. El Nino is a global climate phenomenon characterized by the warming of ocean surface temperatures in equatorial parts of the Pacific and recurs every few years. Continue reading South African Maize Silos Dried By Deepening Drought→
“THE PURSUIT OF COMMON GOOD MUST BE THE PRIMARY GOAL”
The Jesuit Institute South Africa has joined a chorus of voices from all sectors of South African society expressing serious concern over the removal of Nhlanha Nene as the country’s Minister of Finance. The institute says: “This move, announced by President Jacob Zuma, spells disaster for the stability of an embattled economy and raises questions about his ability to lead.
Moments after the announcement was made the local currency plummeted, hitting an all time low against the US dollar. Zuma offered no explanation for what seems to be a grossly irresponsible decision.
There seems to be no doubt that the President fired Nene because he would not allow Zuma and some of his cadres to spend money recklessly, for personal gain, and in so doing risk the integrity of the Treasury.
Nene insisted on tight fiscal discipline in the face of a growing deficit and a worrying economic forecast.
Nene did not bow to political pressure. He would not sanction the revision of a deal to buy new aircraft for South African Airways. The airline’s board chairperson, Dudu Myeni (who is also chair of the Jacob Zuma Foundation), was unhappy and appears to have used her personal relationship with the President to influence this decision. Continue reading South Africa: Jesuit statement on removal of finance minister→
The elite Stellenbosch University will now teach in English, the rector has declared. The move comes amid mounting pressure across South Africa to end the vestiges of racial oppression in education.
Student protesters scored a victory on Friday following months of unrest at universities across South Africa. The administration at the prestigious Stellenbosch University announced that classes will now be taught in English instead of Afrikaans, a triumph for increasingly combative students who see the university system as a racist relic of the country’s apartheid past. Continue reading Students in South Africa win language victory→
As a crippling drought tightens its grip on the country, South Africa may soon have to turn to alternative water sources, including making acid mine water and sea water drinkable.
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said these options were on the table as the state investigated ways of mitigating the current drought, especially as significant rain is only expected in March 2016.
The rainfall in KwaZulu-Natal over the past two days was insufficient to increase dam levels, an Umgeni Water official said.
KwaZulu-Natal experienced heavy rainfall this week, but Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said on Thursday the 4mm and 10mm rainfalls was “insufficient”.
“What we have to understand is a lot of this was soaked into the ground and does not raise the levels for the dam. We need significantly longer bouts of rain to [pick] levels up again.” Continue reading South Africa: Recent Rains in KZN Not Enough – Umgeni Water→
CAPE TOWN, Jul 28 2015 (IPS) – Anti-nuclear energy activists are up in arms, and have taken to vigils outside South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town to protest against President Jacob Zuma’s push for nuclear development.
The protest has been building since September 2014 when Zuma struck a deal with Russia’s Rossatom to build up to eight nuclear power stations in South Africa. The stations would cost the country around 1 trillion South African rands (84 billion dollars).
As the protests mount, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), an interdenominational faith-based environment initiative led by Bishop Geoff Davies, has said the government’s nuclear policy is not only foolish but immoral.
EMALAHLENI, South Africa – Everything in Andries Evans’ house is coated in black dust. It has invaded his sofas, the Jesus picture on the wall, the plastic cups and plates in his kitchen, and the old man himself.
He is a skinny, fragile man who looks much older than his 59 years. His red cap is dirty, his shirt and jogging pants are dirty. Everything is blackened from the coal his crumbling brick house is built upon.
The old man looked up and stuck his finger through the tin roof, as if it were going through soft butter.
“Look, it is all old and eroded.”
He said he feels the dust is not good for him, he is short of breath and feels weak. Even after 35 years, he cannot get used to the life on the Highveld of South Africa, an area that is said to have some of the highest air pollution levels in the world.
MNS is one of many informal settlements around the city of Emalahleni, “the place of coal” in Zulu, in the province of Mpumalanga, where decades of excessive coal mining has taken its toll on the environment.
The area of Emalahleni was declared a “High Priority Area” by the South African government in 2007 due to the hazardous substances in the air. Among the issues scientists have found are elevated carbon dioxide emissions, sulphur dioxide in the air, heavy metals in the soil and acidic groundwater. These were linked to the 22 collieries in Mpumalanga, as well as the 12 coal-fired power stations – of the country’s 16.
A new power station, Kusile, is planned to be completed in 2017 and will make pollution levels even worse, environmental experts warn.
“Now that we are going through a power crisis the government relies even more on coal,” said Tracey Davies, an attorney from the Centre for Environmental Rights in Cape Town.
“It is the easiest and quickest way to generate power, so we are just following this path without considering the consequences.”
Generating more power through coal means more coal must be extracted.
But South Africa, which currently generates 90 percent of its electricity through coal, is already struggling with the devastating impacts of more than a century of excessive mining.
A stroll around Emalahleni is enough to get a feel for the impact coal has had the environment.
The landscape shines in bright colours, layers of white and yellow cover former riverbeds and grasslands that were transformed into mining areas. There are no leaves on the trees, and the waters are clear and lifeless. Thick fog looms in the air.
“Acid mine drainage,” said Matthews Hlabane from the Southern African Green Revolutionary Council who has been monitoring the area for almost 30 years.
“The pH levels around here are below 1. Some residents of the informal settlements say that birds fall dead from the sky when they fly over the area.”
Hlabane laughs sarcastically. “In a few decades we are going to fight wars over water.”
He took Al Jazeera to areas in which coal seems have been burning underground for decades, where sinkholes and polluted groundwater from abandoned mines are a hazard to the surrounding communities.
Children play on the old mine dumps and adults collect the coal waste for domestic fires.
“If nothing happens we are going to lose all our water resources,” said Hlabane.
“The Olifants river is already contaminated and we are on our way to do the same to the Limpopo river.”
South Africa is not the only country to have chosen coal as the way forward in the near future. Demand for coal is growing worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it has been “the fastest-growing global energy source of the 21st century”, ensuring 40 percent of the world’s electricity supply in 2014.
The IEA predicts that China will account for three-fifths of global demand growth in the next 5 years, followed by India and other Asian nations.
At the launch of the IEA’s annual Coal Market report last December, executive director Maria van der Hoeven said “coal use in its current form is
Even Europe, whose countries are investing more and more in renewable energies, still derives a third of its power from the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel.
These trends ignore the numerous studies that have proved the negative impacts of coal mining on the environment, for which South Africa serves as a prime example.
Acid mine drainage
“Acid mine drainage from coal mining areas has had a devastating impact on water resources, with acidification of rivers and streams, elevated metal levels and consequent fish die-offs”, said a report released by the WWF South Africa in 2011.
Another study conducted by Greenpeace concluded that “decades of coal [mining] have poisoned the landscape and driven the Olifants River to a crisis point”.
The study suggested that the pollution levels are the cause of more than 2,000 premature deaths per year in South Africa.
Attorney Tracey Davies holds the government responsible for this “nightmare disaster”. She said the lawmakers are failing to monitor and enforce the “wonderful policies” South Africa has regarding the rehabilitation of the environment.
“The Department of Mineral Resources is granting more and more licences without making sure that the shafts are adequately closed.”
The law urges the companies to rehabilitate an area concurrently, while they are mining it.
“But it is simply not happening,” she said.
Phuti Mabelebele from the Department of Petroleum and Minerals, which regulates the duties of mining companies to prevent environmental damage, says that currently 263 mining licences have been granted, and more than 500 prospecting rights.
“Mining companies are expected to comply with the mine environmental policy,” she told Al Jazeera. She explained that “there is a mine rehabilitation programme in place that companies comply with,” although she did not elaborate on the nature of the programme.
The Bench Marks Foundation of South Africa insists that action must be taken. The NGO released a report last year, saying that there are at least 6,000 abandoned mines in Mpumalanga – 160 of these are around Emalahleni – which are spilling acid water and heavy metals into the environment.
“We call for obligatory transparency by mining corporations regarding mine closure plans,” said John Capel, the CEO of the NGO.
“Thousands of communities are living in areas that should have been closed off due to extremely hazardous conditions”.
Sitting on fire
He refers to places like Coronation, an informal settlement on the other side of Emalahleni. It looks like a post-apocalyptic film set – hills over hills of blackness, interrupted by sinkholes that cut through the landscape like giant scars.
The settlement is named after the mining operation it was built on, which was owned by Anglo American Coal and closed in the late 1940s.
“I know this is not safe,” said Salome Elem, a local resident, as she stood on the ridge of the dump, shovelling coal into a large bucket.
She said she doesn’t want her four-year-old son to play in the area because of the sinkholes and the dust that she thinks are dangerous. Two boys were recently burned to death after falling into an abandoned mine shaft, she recalled.
She looked fearfully at Matthews Hlabane as the activist explained that the ground underneath her shack could collapse at any moment.
“I know where we are standing is not safe … but my house?” she asked.
Every day she collects coal for domestic use. She is one of millions of households in South Africa who don’t have access to power, although the wires supplying the mines are visible from where she digs.
“You say there is a power problem in South Africa?” she laughed.
“I cook with coal and use solar power for light.”
Elem pointed towards a red and white shack, less than 50m away. On the roof is a solar panel. It generates just enough power to light a weak bulb and charge their phones at night.
“Most of the people in Coronation have started using solar,” Elem said.