Flogging an Eskom dead horse? You’ve got it all wrong

SO LONG as this country myopically persists with it’s strange obsession in maintaining the Eskom energy monopoly, there will be load-shedding and blackouts. Consumers desperately require choices in energy provider, options on who can connect their home grid, to power the toaster and microwave oven. But practically nobody here is speaking out on the lack of consumer choice when it comes to electricity.

It’s as if energy analysts are brainwashed morons flogging the proverbial dead horse, each year they call for inquiries into why the horse died, reclassifying the dead horse as ‘living impaired’, arrange for officials to visit other countries to ‘see how they ride dead horses’, call for additional funding and training to ‘improve the dead horse’s performance’, or the hiring of outside contractors to ‘ride the dead horse’, and so on, but are simply too afraid to ‘let go of the horse’, lest they be out of a job.

What is wrong with you people?

A decade ago I attended a talk by David Lipshitz, founder and CEO of MyPowerStation. A company which aims to provide a ‘virtual power station’ solution via online billing and provisioning of energy services to consumers. His magnificent idea of introducing information technology to the sale of electricity to the end-user and consumer, has been stymied by a regulatory environment which is more in keeping with a 19th Century model of distribution than the 21st century.

Lipshitz’s website is now merely a link to his book, The Last Blackout, available via Amazon.

“What would happen if city dwellers in cities with more than 1 million people suddenly had no electricity?” asks Lipshitz in an ‘electrifying, shocking, and powerful thriller’, that is too close for comfort. The past week has seen some areas of South Africa experiencing 9 hour blackouts. The weekend was a series of 6 hours of load-shedding for my own household.

South Africa’s model of energy distribution requires urgent and drastic intervention. And I don’t mean to re-engage the debate on where our electricity should be coming from in other words, how it is produced. Doing so merely adds to the pile of doggy-doo dolled up by consultants, analysts and self-proclaimed experts dished up on national television on a daily basis.

Whether or not, electricity is provided by the state, or Independent Power Producers (IPPs) is of no real consequence in a system in which the end-user is placed at the forefront. There are no rational reasons why consumers should not be given the choice of purchasing energy from sustainable resources, whether women-owned utitlies, or listed companies with a high ESG and BEE component. Let the people decide.

Unfortunately, and despite the mooted plans to open Eskom’s grid to the ‘wheeling of energy’ by third parties, there remain a number of obstacles. The first is the fact that our government and especially its Marxist Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, continues to embrace a blind focus on centralisation. You can read my piece on why the state is rooted in an ideological fixation, the problem of ‘Socialist Complexity’, and my proposal for an Energy Commons. I continue to believe a commons is a ‘way out of the debt trap’.

Eskom is heavily in debt and clearly unprofitable when it comes to the generation of electricity, and is a prime example of why governments and bureaucrats are less efficient than the market and free enterprise when it comes to allocation of capital. Which is why we continue to see the introduction of tariff increases several times over the inflation rate. Is more money really going to solve the problem?

Not when we have the bizarre situation in which our Muni’s and Metro’s, alongside the corner Cafe ‘prepaid token’ store, are all added to the game of profiting off the bulk sale of electricity, energy provided by a grossly inefficient pyramid scheme by a solitary, underperforming producer of electricity. Nobody is fooled by people like Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis promising the City will bring new capacity online, give or take a megawatt, or our President Ramaphosa, racing home to declare yet another electricity crisis requiring a crisis committee.

Without actioning on our rights as consumers, rights enshrined in our constitution, we will be left in the dark. It is essential for Eskom to open up the grid, not only to the ‘wheeling of electricity’ but to the dealing and virtualisation of billing and provisioning of new services. Then we might take a cue from New Zealand where deregulation has proven incredibly successful.

The country has 5 major electricity generating companies. Genesis Energy, Mercury and Meridian Energy operate under a ‘mixed ownership model’ in which the government holds a majority stake, while Contact and Trustpower are private sector companies. The country once struggled with a system very similar to our own, before dumping a socialist government.

Sadly, despite promises, there appears to be no genuine enabling legislation nor incentives in South Africa to allow a third party to purchase electricity, from either the state or the IPPs, and to resell the result on the open, rather than captive market, to the consumer. This is clearly why our system is failing. Embracing Lipshitz’s modest proposal and learning from the example of New Zealand, would be a step in the right direction.

In fact one does not have far to travel, to examine the case of another state monopoly, to see why deregulation when it comes to South Africa is the only solution. The fate of Telkom, once the country’s sole cable monopoly, provides us with a good case in point. If we had not opened up, we would still have a situation in which the only telephone available, was from the same company, with a single color, beige. Left to its own devices (excuse the pun) Telkom would still be in the copper age.

Look at how Internet Services Providers (ISPs), just like IPPs began to emerge in the 90s, while our government to its credit allowed a semblance of competition (initially only in the mobile market). With the result these companies grew up and essentially outflanked Grandma Telkom. In the process provisioning fibre cable infrastructure to the suburbs, and FTTH, all of which cost the taxpayer not a single penny.

Given enough time, our IPPs might eventually begin rolling out similar infrastructure. In fact they would be negligent if they did not. Best to get Eskom into open competition mode as soon as possible. The alternative is living with a permanent threat of massive grid failure just around the corner, alongside a collapsed economy.

Blame for the energy crisis needs to be placed fairly and squarely upon the failed ideology of the ANC and its coalition partners.

In many respects the ANC policies of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and its flipside Radical Economic Transformation (RET) resemble the policies of Nico Diederichs’ ‘reddingsdaadbond’ whose Nationalists of the 1940s viewed the state as the primary instrument whereby the Afrikaner capitalist would come to the fore via ‘volkscapitalisme’. Like so many socialist experiments, the ‘capital of the state’ was seen as synonymous with the ‘capital of the Volk‘, as the party mobilised for a ‘transformation of economic consciousness’.

Version two of ‘state capitalism’ in other words, government-directed economics (dirigisme) under the ANC, the proverbial ‘mixed economy’ has certainly turned into an abject failure. In the process ordinary South Africans — small businesses, patients in hospitals, commuters, and other categories of workers, are being sacrificed to accommodate what is essentially a Marxist fantasy.

One has merely to look at the huge cost overruns orchestrated during the building of the Medupi and Kusile projects, involving continual extension of catered lunches and free banquets for personnel. At the time contracts to feed workers were among the biggest catering contracts in the country, proving that providing a reliable source of energy was certainly never the game-plan. The projects have essentially turned into white elephants, considering the related climate factors.

Anyone who suggests otherwise, is living in cloudcuckooland or like so many political analysts, groomed on our nation’s campuses, armed solely with the tools of radicalism instead of data-analysis, fails to draw truth from facts instead, myopically deriving ‘truth’ from an ideological position.

Wherefore the Genie in the Gini?

A good example is the endless repetition and political cant involving the Gini coefficient. While the country may have a high score on the Gini Index a measure of the distribution of income across a population, which is cause for concern (a higher Gini index indicates greater inequality), continually harping on about this unfortunate statistic, fails to take into consideration other factors — for example, the country ranks relatively well on the human development index with a score of 0.705, above Egypt and Bolivia but just below Indonesia.

Unlike the Gini, the human development index is a ‘statistic composite index of life expectancy, education (mean years of schooling completed), and per capita income indicators’, which are used to rank countries into ‘four tiers of human development’.

Incorrectly suggesting that South Africa is effectively ‘under-developed’ or that life-expectancy is somehow on par with Chad or Niger, belies the fact that as an emerging nation, South Africa has a lot to be positive about and despite current difficulties with energy supply and the fuel price caused by failure to implement policy already in place, for example policy when it comes to biofuels (see below).

It is not all that difficult to see which aspects of the economy prospered under the ANC, and which parts continue to create an unnecessary burden on both the treasury and the taxpayer. Despite financial head-winds, those parts of the economy remaining in private hands are still in relatively good shape, with the country recording consecutive trade surpluses, R28.35 billion in May, and even modest growth of 1,9%in the first quarter of 2022, with many corporates posting a return to profit following the decline under Covid.

South Africa has a “mixed economy in which there is a variety of private freedom, combined with centralized economic planning and government regulation” according to website GlobalEdge. It is this structural centralisation and focus on market intervention as opposed to Keynesian, social democratic welfarism, ‘based on the social rights of citizenship‘ which has received criticism from the World Bank and other aid agencies.

Far from providing for its primary mandate, Eskom and Transnet have become nothing more than massively costly exercises in sheltered employment for the party faithful, requiring efforts to trim down a bloated workforce. In both cases, these parastatals were used to siphon money into the pockets of Jacob Zuma and his cronies and are the subject of a 5 volume report into corruption.

Fuel or Fool?

Analysts continue to dress up the ANC and its SACP/COSATU “RET faction” ambitions of “transformation of economic consciousness” with phrases like “the working class” and “means of production”, essentially promoting failed economic policies — policies that are at the heart of the nation’s perennial inability to drive growth and economic expansion.

In 2019 cabinet approved a ‘biofuels regulatory framework‘ mandating blending regulations, feedstock protocols, subsidy mechanisms, selection criteria for projects, licensing of product storage and blending facilities, and containing environmental, water use and land use approval mechanisms.

The legislation was published by the Government Gazette and approved by Cabinet on 13 December 2019, this after some two decades of debate on the topic, including input from the environmental justice movement. By all measures the country should have been amply-armed and primed for the current global fuels crisis. Similarly plans to restructure and unbundle Eskom were proposed as early as 2015 and an energy roadmap released in 2019, so what happened?

Instead of embracing the constitutional imperative of sustainable development our Minister of Energy Gwede Mantashe took us all on a wild goose chase in the quest to mine the ocean for gas, promoting dodgy Karpowership deals, fossil fuel, nuclear power and big coal. Instead of embracing a just transition and change at Eskom, unions dug in their heels. Instead of seeking out environmentally-friendly alternatives and demand-side reduction, we are involved in the intrigues of Russia’s Gazaprom, the closure of refinery capacity and the collapse of the national power grid. We are all paying for it at the pump, and at the electricity meter.

Though the apartheid-era steel monopoly ISCOR was sold off to Mittel, and the telephone monopoly Telkom was listed in the face of competition from mobile providers, the government retained monopolies in rail transport, sea ports, energy generation and distribution, in other words Transnet, Portnet and Eskom.

The results are plain to see. Our government’s stake in listed entities like Sasol (8.4%) have outperformed its troublesome direct holdings — state-run enterprises have thus fared dismally — demonstrating why markets are more efficient at allocating capital than governments, and essentially represent the lesser of two evils insofar as our development path is concerned.

Note: There are currently over 700 state-owned entities dependent upon the treasury.

(You can read one of my earlier postings on this subject here)

SEE Volkskapitalisme: Class, Capital and Ideology in the Development of Afrikaner Nationalism, 1934–1948

SA Astonishing failure to plan transition away from ICE

EVEN if there was no war in Ukraine and no embargo against Russian oil and gas, South Africa would find itself in a pretty pickle, forced to import fuel directly. It is not just our strategic fuel reserves which have been plundered, but our capacity to refine crude in the face of a global transition away from the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) which stands at the heart of massive increases at the pump.

Attempts by government to restructure and partially deregulate the fuel price by lowering or dropping levies are merely band-aids on a serious problem, whose root cause is the pivot away from fossil fuels towards Electric Vehicles (EVs).

The blame needs to be placed squarely on both the Minister of Energy and Resources, Gwede Mantashe and Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula whose porfolio’s intersect.

It seems strange that a former spokesperson to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Yonela Diko should be generating after the fact opinion pieces pointing out that ‘depending solely on fuel imports threatens energy security”, as if this strategic reality were not already at the heart of our energy policies, and especially given our countries past experience with sanctions?

Diko’s demonstration of the lack of refining capacity caused by the unwillingness of energy companies to invest in upgrades is only part of the problem in dealing with the harsh reality that the entire world is transitioning away from fossil fuels, towards electric vehicles:

He writes: “The latest closure of Shell and BP-owned Refinery Sapref in Durban which had a peak capacity of 180 000 bbl/d, a whooping 35% crude refining capacity of the entire country, becomes the latest blow in the countries refining capacity leaving the country with only one option, to import.”

“We are now left with the only worlds coal-based synthetic fuels refinery, Sasol’s Natref, which has a peak day production of a 150 000 bbl/d, which is not enough to carry the entire country and replace the lost refinery capacity. We also have the ever so incapacitated PetroSA which is supposed to be a gas-to-liquid refinery in Mossel Bay which never seems to find any gas.”

Instead of defending the capacity already in place and coming up with a mitigation plan, we have seen a veritable, wild goose chase. Readers may remember the debacle involving Shell and Mantashe’s search for oil and gas off our coast? The entire energy strategy, which found its origin in Jacob Zuma’s Operation Phakisa, has been to pivot towards ‘prospecting’ (read: Adventurism) and the parceling out of future ocean rights to oil companies, none of which have panned out. It is only Namibia which has benefited.

As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is always better than two in the bush.

In some respects the environmental justice movement is also caught offside with its mantra of “Just Transition Away from Coal”, instead of a ‘Just Transition Towards Renewables in Transportation’.

Although there are tentative plans involving so-called “Green Hydrogen” impacting upon heavy industry and mining vehicles, the government has failed to deliver any tangible incentives to transition towards Electric Vehicles. No rebates, no tax incentives, no assistance to an industry which desperately needs to be retooled.

Petrol attendants and ‘pump jockeys’ may just go the way of the lift attendant, elevator operator and ice-hauler, who no longer haul ice to the proverbial icebox. All categories of work long considered redundant. Unless SADC is able to co-operate in finding a solution, the transition will come-about via accident if not force majeur, and not according to any particular plan.

Unlike the USA and Europe, South Africa faces a hybrid future, where bio-diesel, methane, hydrogen fuel cells and electric all play a role. One would expect the Minister of Transport to have announced plans for moving South Africa’s massive fleet of Quantum minibuses towards sustainable bio-diesel or methane. Ditto the trucking industry.

To date there are no plans to my knowledge to assist in the retrofit of private and public transport.Talk about the introduction of Chinese-produced, electric-powered ‘Bullet Trains’ seems to be just empty talk, as consumers are forced to pore fuel at the pump.

SEE: https://www.outa.co.za/blog/newsroom-1/post/reclaim-sas-strategic-oil-reserves-946

Or Else, Dr Nie and the coming of the Warlords

IT WAS a series of ‘inflammatory speeches’ made outside former president Jacob Zuma’s estate in Nkandla which had initially lead to the suspension of Carl Niehaus’s ANC membership on 7 July 2021. At a press briefing flanked by camouflage wearing cadres of uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) and members of the ‘Hands off Zuma’ campaign, Niehaus had issued an open threat of public violence the day before:

“We’ve warned the national executive committee of the ANC and also the justices of the constitutional court, and also the deputy chief justice Zondo that if cool heads and minds do not prevail, if president Zuma continues to be targeted and if president Zuma is eventually sent to prison, that our country will be torn apart.”

Railing against the manner in which the Zondo commission of inquiry into corruption, was being used in a ‘selective manner’ for party-political infighting, or so he claimed, he promised that members of his organisation would ‘form a human shield to protect Zuma’.

Thus set in motion a series of events which would ignite Kwazulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, as Zuma’s support base was nevertheless, and despite such warnings, drawn into a partisan factional battle that had been brewing for months.

Convoys of supporters had already descended upon the Zuma compound over the weekend, and thus an early attempt at the arrest of the former president had been thwarted. Firing live bullets, singing struggle songs, they formed themselves into regiments, and told the press that they were ‘not scared to die for Zuma’.

It was then that the unthinkable happened, the ANC divorced its former military wing.

Niehaus had in turn released a statement of open defiance, flouting the ANC national executive committee (NEC) decision to disband the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA).’

Shortly after the NEC announced its decision to disband the MKMVA, Niehaus had issued a ‘statement saying the NEC — the ANC’s highest decision-making body in between conferences — had been emotional and angry.’

Niehaus said the move was ‘unacceptable and the MKMVA would not accept it.’ “We are an autonomous structure, and it is not legally nor politically possible for the ANC to disband the MKMVA,” he said.

Though the stage had been set for a paramilitary showdown at Nkandla, with Zuma addressing both members of the ‘Hands off Zuma’ campaign, and his amaButho Zulu regiments, where he essentially worked the crowds into a partisan insurrection, the former president had appeared to blink, and seemingly backed off, instead handing himself over to authorities the next day.

On the following Friday, the high court dismissed an application to have Zuma’s arrest the previous night overturned in a case that was being seen as a ‘test of the post-apartheid nation’s rule of law’ by the international community. An hour before the ruling, a Reuters photographer saw a group of protesters shouting “Zuma!” burning tires and blocking a road.

By Saturday evening sabotage operations aimed at bringing Kwazulu-Natal and the rest of the country to a grinding halt were well underway as a powder keg of poverty caused by the ruling party’s lack of service delivery, turned into a weapon at the hand of KZN’s warlords.

This week, Niehaus released a statement essentially daring Minister Mbalula to arrest him and referring to a BBC interview in which the minister had not, contrary to his assertions, uttered so much as a word about the former ANC member.

That a virtual split in the ruling party was behind the sequence of events, can be seen by a march organised in its aftermath. The party was forced to issue a statement claiming that ‘motorcades and marches, held in the name of freeing former president Jacob Zuma, and linked to protesting “racist attacks” in Phoenix were not sanctioned by its provincial structure.

Meanwhile residents of neighbouring Ballito were bemoaning the fact that the Premier of the Province,  Sihle Zikalala, instead of assisting the community had attempted to prevent crowd-control barricades from being erected.

SEE: Suspended ANC Members Carl Niehaus and Andile Lungisa On WhatsApp Group for Planning Riots and Looting

Senekal: Time for genuine Fair Trade Certification and income equalisation?

IT IS easy to become cynical following the events surrounding Senekal over the past two weeks. On the one hand, extremists who justify farm murders by driving an overtly racist Afro-chauvinist narrative (Africa exclusively for black Africans). A story which ignores the very real problem faced by rural murder rates, some 80% above the national average and related issues of food security and social stability.

On the other hand, lack of decent wages and career opportunities faced by thousands of seasonal share croppers, farm workers and rural labourers, is providing fertile ground to those driving a fascist post-Marikana narrative that feeds into an ongoing legacy of land dispossession, at the same time that it seeks to negate democratic transformation and the notable gains of the second Republic.

Undoubtedly solutions such as income equalisation and fair trade certification will be seen by the hard left as dissipating of revolt and reinforcing of the status quo. Maintaining the current state of affairs is not my intention. Rather, we should all be asking questions: Why is it that in order to drink tea from a label such as PG Tips which prides itself on delivering a product which is ‘farmed by workers earning a decent wage, with access to good quality housing, medical care and education for their children’, one has to look instead, towards an imported brand?

Where is the local equivalent of the Rainforest Alliance, whose certification process aims at “breaking the cycle of rural poverty—and tackling the ensuing impacts for people and nature ” a fact considered “critical for a more sustainable future for us all”?

Fairtrade, another international certification organisation “exists to empower farmers and workers around the world. Some 1700 producer organisations, representing over 1.7 million farmers and workers, are the foundation of the Fairtrade system.”

Given South Africa’s history of super-exploitation of labour, one would hope that consumers would be more actively involved in changing the cycle of wage exploitation, by demanding better work conditions on farms at the same time that we act to end farm murders, in effect creating an orderly process of empowerment of black farmer and farmworkers, without the need for political opportunism and grandstanding.

Clearly there is not enough land to give each and every citizen in South Africa a farm, and similarly we can’t all become farm managers over-night. Providing a different scenario to that faced by today’s share-croppers in the form of real shares and dividends would be a welcome start. So too would proposing an income equalisation fund, one that avoids seasonal fluctuations in wages whilst protecting the families of those affected.

COVID-19: Our People’s Health is an Environmental Issue

SOUTH AFRICA is one of the few countries to have secured the right to a healthy environment alongside the right to health in its constitution, yet it took the crisis of a global pandemic for apartheid-era hostels in Alexander township to be deep cleaned. As our own Department of Health moved to contain the spread of COVID-19, questions were being raised as to why the Minister had waited so long, and why had the Department of Health (DOH) not acted with similar vigour during previous TB and Pneumonia epidemics?

As the nation went into lock-down, many found cause to question the apartheid spatial planning which meant that black South Africans were disproportionately affected by problems related to access to food, lack of water, sanitation and ablution facilities. As one mother put it, ‘Our family share a single tap with four other households, social distancing is problematic for us.’ While most white folk were hunkering down in luxury apartment blocks, the poor were being relegated to townships and informal settlements where little has changed during the democratic period.

The cause is a virus which many scientists believe has come to the fore because of the same underlying factors effecting climate change. One should talk here about the ecology of disease.

“The interconnectedness of our globalised world facilitated the spread of COVID-19. The disruption this continues to cause has made evident societal dependence on global production systems,” says Vijay Kolinjivadi, a  post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Policy at the University of Antwerp.

He observes a disjuncture in our response to the double crisis: “Although both COVID-19 and climate change are rooted in the same abusive economic behaviour and both have proven to be deadly for humans, governments have seen them as separate and unconnected phenomena and have therefore responded rather differently to them.”

“While we do not get daily updates on the death toll caused by climate change, as we do with COVID-19, it is much deadlier than the virus.”

Although a lot has been made about animal rights and the beneficial decrease in pollution caused by the pandemic, the result of what researchers such as Kolinjivi see as a ‘positive degrowth’. Now is not the time for complacency on air standards, emissions and climate change.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland writing with Daya Reddy, President of the International Science Council, says: “The COVID-19 threat has shown that governments can act swiftly and resolutely in a crisis, and that people are ready to change their behavior for the good of humanity. The world must now urgently adopt the same approach to the existential challenge of climate change.”

In South Africa the ruling party has instead utilised the pandemic as an opportunity to escape commitments made during successive UN Conference of the Parties (COP) rounds. Readers awoke last week to find that Gwede Mantashe, had published new amendments to the Mineral Resources Development Act (MPRDA) on the first day of the Covid-19 emergency lock-down in order to escape accountability, while air pollution standards had been gutted, enabling Eskom and SASOL to double sulphur emissions.

There is palpable fear amongst activists, that in focusing on the pandemic, the nation will lose its impetus on climate change alongside its civil liberties.

“The disruption brought on by Covid-19 could reverse efforts made by governments thus far to reduce carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis. What is needed is a way to connect the two calamities to capacitate a sustainable revival in the aftermath” writes Luveshni Odayar, a Machel-Mandela Fellow at The Brenthurst Foundation.

It is therefore imperative that we view public health (literally the people’s health) as an environmental issue, in the same way that apartheid was linked to the struggle for environmental justice by myself and others, back in the 1980s, resulting in the emergence of Earthlife Africa and other activist formations.

In fact the two health struggles, that of the public in general (and body in particular), and that of the environment at large, are so closely interlinked and intertwined, that they cannot be seen as distant relatives.

Whether food security, urban and peri-urban spatial planning, climate change or coronovirus, the rights of all citizens to live in harmony with nature, while enjoying quality of life, free from disease and illness is non-negotiable.

The result of this crisis must be an expanded concept of health and health-care-for-all, and thus a public policy which encompasses physical well-being as much as it does the Earth. That it has taken a virus to make us all aware of this deep connection, can only be seen as one of the positive lessons to be drawn from the pandemic.

Our recovery and future is dependent upon making this profound realisation a reality, and thus a yardstick which motivates and drives our country.

This Land is our land: expropriation a poison pill or magic fix?

IN 1967, folk singers Des and Dawn Lindberg debut album, Folk on Trek, was banned. One of the reasons appears to be a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, ‘albeit South Africanised with local landmarks ‘and written as “This land is my land, this land is your land. From the great Limpopo to Marion Island.”

The pair appealed in court to have the ban on Folk on Trek lifted’, writes Charles Leonard, but lost the case. “All copies of the album were ordered to be destroyed although some fans hid theirs and, as a result, some copies survived.”

Land dispossession, in particular the aftermath of the Glen Grey Act of 1894, and 1913 Land Act, which both limited land ownership and restricted the franchise along colour lines, has long been a bone of contention.  Yet one hundred years later a new democratic order emerged, alongside property guarantees which enabled a black majority government to begin the process of land restitution on the basis of the ‘willing buyer/willing seller principle’.

Some R60 billion was pumped into land reform with mixed results.

The country experienced a 15-year long boom period which came to an end in 2009. Cut to 2020, and wholesale ‘land expropriation without compensation’ a policy at first introduced by the far-left opposition EFF, is being seen as a magic bullet panacea by the ruling party, one which will usher in a veritable Eden of opportunity. A constitutional amendment of article 25 apparently gazetted last year is being rushed into Parliament, with January 31 being the last opportunity for comment by the public.

In the midst of this, there is talk of doing away with legal scrutiny of the new Land mechanism which can only be put in place if the constitutional amendment is passed with a 2/3 supermajority in Parliament.

The bill must be passed by 267 votes of a possible 400 votes. Currently the ANC only has 230 seats. It would still need to garner support from either the official opposition DA, with 84, seats or 3rd largest party, the EFF with 44 seats.

It is significant that it is under the former President Zuma that one version of the Expropriation bill first emerged in 2016, where it was referred to the President and lingered in committee. As early as 2006, President Thabo Mbeki ‘used his State of the Nation address to revisit the “willing‐​buyer willing‐​seller” principle for land redistribution‘. Criticism of which is a perennial favourite amongst members of the ruling party.

Arguably, the single most disruptive policy, bar already weak economic performance, failing SOEs and the Zondo Commission. It is the threat of land expropriation which is driving both immigration and uncertainty within the country,  leading to a looming tax revolt, and criticism of President Ramaphosa, lead by banks which see the deleterious side-effects on property prices as a dangerous precedent.

Nowhere in the world, wherever property rights have been eroded or undermined by the state, has there been a contingent increase in economic stability, instead the reverse is true.

Both Venezuela and Zimbabwe provide abject examples, since state seizure of land, for whatever purposes, invariably sets in motion economic forces which are difficult to contain, the least of which is the impact on foreign investment.

Nationalisation is at the heart of the hyper-inflation experienced by these two countries.

Simply transferring arable land to the masses will not equate to instantaneous economic opportunity, as so many leftist commentators maintain, but risks a crisis situation in which current land tenants move from one economic model of exploitation to another — from land tenancy at the behest of private capital to land tenancy on behalf of the state.

In effect the failed SOE model is being allowed to reign supreme, as the state begins to supersede the private sector. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange risks becoming irrelevant in the greater scheme of things.

Alongside the logic of nationalisation, the invariably reduction of economic output, with consequent inability to fund growth without borrowing money. All evidence points to the failure of such policies wherever they have been tried.

While Western economies, though troubled, are growing, South Africa’s GDP reached a high of 416.9 USD billion in 2011, declined until 295.8 USD billion 2016 and is only now recovering at 349.4 USD billion, a factor of the world economy coupled with Rand deprecation which has made local goods cheap in comparison, rather than any policy per se.

Which brings one to question the entire modality of land ownership. Is land ownership really so desirable?

Would it not be better to create a co-ownership democracy in which each and every citizens receives dividends from the state which derives benefits from taxation and growth, rather than to jettison the private sector and risk dumping the capitalist economy entirely?

A policy of kaizen as practiced by the Japanese, consistent improvement as opposed to unpredictable change would also do wonders, as would household responsibility, a policy introduced in China under Deng.

Instead of building new cities and driving massive public projects, the state has instead focused on defending those few jobs which remain within SAs state enterprises.

Instead of having the courage to let go of those SOEs which have failed, or saving ESKOM the energy parastatel by splitting it up into viable parts, the ANC under Ramaphosa has chosen the path of centralisation, commandeer-ism and the dictates of the so-called dirigiste economy.

This is entirely the result of the ideology of the ruling party alliance which includes trade union COSATU and SACP, an alliance which has worked to stall progress at the same time that it looks for a quick fix, and appears to be short of ideas, save for its promises to those without land.

25 years of statist tinkering with the system has failed to deliver results for ordinary South Africans. It remains to be seen whether land expropriation will deliver anything more than a poison pill.

UPDATE: Deadline for public comment has been extended by one month.

SEE: Cato Institute sounds warning on expropriation policy.

Government can take your home, farm, or business premises under Constitutional Amendment Bill

 

 

 

It’s not all gloom and doom

SOUTH AFRICA has had its fair share of disappointment. Corruption in every sphere of government. A ruling party that has to some extant, captured the judiciary. A leftist project which has delivered dismal economic performance and GDP figures which place us alongside Argentina, Thailand and Colombia. If you’re a clueless commentator like the Financial Mail’s Chris Roper, unable to see the wood for the trees, and who believes ‘the apocalypse is now now’, then here is a list of what is going right:

Thriving Arts Sector

The South African Cultural Observatory (Saco) in Port Elizabeth — which maps, measures, values and calculates the gross domestic product (GDP) contribution of South Africa’s cultural and creative industries — pegs it at R63-billion a year.

This is a small but not insignificant contribution to GDP, and unlike many sectors continues to deliver growth

Automotive Made in South Africa

One thing that our President is doing right, pumping the automotive sector, which continues to produce export quality vehicles. He recently unveiled the Tshwane Automotive Hub at the Ford Motor Company in Pretoria. Part of the Tshwane Special Economic Zone which diversifies the country’s already major auto hub in Nelson Mandela Bay. Almost 19% more vehicles were exported so far this year, compared with 2018.

Emerging Renewables Market

Although competing for government spend alongside parastatel Eskom, the groundwork has been laid for renewables to step into the gap left by unreliable coal projects. In 2016 South Africa was ranked first for its addition in concentrated solar power.  Latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2018 allocations indicate 8 100 MW for wind, 5 670 MW Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and 2 400 MW of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) to be procured by 2030, which has the potential of attracting in excess of R200 billion in the next 12 years.

Internet Growth

While South Africa has a modest 54 percent internet penetration it experienced 7 percent growth from 2017. More citizens are gaining access every day and South Africans spend an average of 8 hours and 32 minutes on the internet per day via any device. Revenue in the local eCommerce market amounts to US$3,308m in 2019. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2024) of 8.3%, resulting in a market volume of US$4,930m by 2024.

Agricultural Haven

Thanks to post-apartheid reforms, the country’s middle class increased by 30% between 2001 and 2004. After a period of recession following 2009, this trend looks set to continue which is why the WWF observes ‘a shift from staple grain crops to a more diverse diet’. Accordingly South Africans have shown a decrease in the consumption of the staples maize and bread, and have massively increased their annual consumption of chicken from 6kg to 27kg per person.

Worth considering that despite land anxiety and uncertainty, climate change and water scarcity, the country remains a net exporter of agricultural products.

African Financial Hub

South Africa is well-positioned to take advantage of its position as a gateway to the continent. The sector contributes some 22% to GDP. Innovation in financial services has made South African banks extremely competitive, responsive and able to deliver what consumers need, low fees, digital access and more on the way.

BRICS development funds

Funds coming our way as a result of the BRICS bank initiative include $200-million loan to Transnet to expand the capacity of Durban port, $300-million loan to the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) for on-lending to sustainable development projects, R1.15-billion loan to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for on-lending to renewable energy sub-projects $480-million loan,  to Eskom to retrofit flue-gas desulphurisation equipment, to make Medupi power plant compliant.

NOTE: Sorry Chris, if you want to apportion blame, Stephen Hawkings says, greed and stupidity is what will end the world, not merely politicians.

Towards an African, humanist environmentalism for South Africa

IT WAS during the dying days of apartheid, that I wrote a series of articles promoting ‘ecological sustainable development’ and deep ecology. The pieces published by Grassroots and South Press were extraordinary, the least of which is that they were published by a working class imprint shortly after the state of emergency.

They dovetailed my criticism of race-based conservation efforts by elements within the regime, for example the Rupert Family, and addressed perceptions that the emergent environmental justice movement in the country was, to put it crudely, an all-white affair.

The result was the ‘First National Conference on Environment and Development’, in which academics and activists from all quarters joined hands on a broad eco-justice platform which included both the ANC and PAC, and which resulted in the placing of Earth Rights at the centre of our Constitution, in the form of article 24.

Today’s political pundits Carilee Osborne and Bruce Baigrie , conveniently ignore the history of environmentalism in South Africa, preferring to situate their respective struggles within the contemporary milieu of the Climate Strike — the recent Cape Town March which saw some 2500 people from various organisations and civic structures take to the streets in what they view “as one of the largest environmental protest actions in South Africa’s history.”

This is no mean feet and without wishing to downplay the successes of these epic events during the course of the past year, one should always remember that the environmental justice movement arose as a foundation stone of our Constitution during a period of mass democratic action, the likes of which have yet to be repeated. And thus a struggle which was situated not upon my own writings, nor the writings of any one particular individual, but rather the Freedom Charter, which (within the colour of the time) called upon people black and white, to “save the soil”, whilst sharing the land, and assisting the tillers of the land.

A similar mistake in historical proportion and misreading of history occurs within the various articles penned by one Farieda Khan. She writes in “Environmentalism in South Africa: A Sociopolitical Perspective”, (an otherwise excellent paper written over the turn of the millennium): “The first extra-parliamentary political organization to commit to a formal environmental policy was the Call of Islam, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front (the South African front organization for the then-banned African National Congress).” She goes on to state: “The Call of Islam had a formal environmental policy since its inception in 1984, due in large measure to the efforts of its founder, Moulana Faried Esack.”

If only history were so convenient as to claim environmentalism on behalf of any one religion or individual, whether Islam, or the Church, as many within SAFCEI and SACC would have it, or on behalf of one or more important groups or class formations formulated by those on the left, as those within AIDC would have us believe. (Please read Roger Hallam, XR Rebellion founder criticism of the failings of the so-called radical left).

Rather, I think it more accurate and best to take a broader arc of history — one that includes the Freedom Charter and its appeal to ‘save the soil’, and reaching forward to the essential humanism espoused by the deep ecology movement of the 1970s, whose distinguishing and original characteristics are its recognition of the inherent value of all living beings: “Those who work for social changes based on this recognition are motivated by love of nature as well as for humans.” And by extension, as much of my writing and published work from the 1980s suggested, an African environmentalism which realises that Ubuntu is not simply being human because we are all human, but rather, a common humanity contingent upon the necessary existence of our habitat, without which we could not exist as a species.

Instead of situating the environmental movement within so-called ‘working class’ struggles, or working class factions as Osborne and Baigrie attempt in “Towards a working-class environmentalism for South Africa”, and thus the binary of a grand populism vs narrow neoliberalism, a binary which simply perpetuates the idea of man’s dominion over nature and thus a struggle which of necessity is juxtaposed alongside the authoritarian grip of party politics, another path must be found.

It is all too easy to issue anti-capitalist prescriptions, leftist directives and cadre-based imperatives calling for the end of free markets whilst, forgetting that it is Eskom’s captive market, Eskom’s socialist ambitions, and Eskom’s coal barons which have pushed South Africa ahead of the UK in terms of GHG emissions, a country with 10-15 million more people. Although only the 33rd largest economy, South Africa is the 14th largest GHG emitter in the world. Our national energy provider, Eskom has yet to adopt GHG emissions targets.

All the result of  the boardroom compromises of the statist, authoritarian left, whose policies have seen our country embrace ‘peak, plateau and decline’ alongside a COP-out strategy excluding South Africa from the Paris Agreement, and thus a national environmental policy which is not based upon empirical science and evidence-based research but rather class driven kragdadigheid and Big Coal.

If those on the far left expect us all to reject secular humanist values alongside Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess who introduced the phrase “deep ecology” and thus an environmentalism which emerged as a popular grassroots political movement in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, simply because these persons are lily-white, or tainted by the liberal economics of the West, then they are sorely mistaken.

Instead, I believe, that it is far better to formulate an African-centred response, and rather a Pan-African struggle which is broad-based and inclusive of our collective humanity and common habitat. Such a broad-based struggle out of necessity includes an African-Centered Ecophilosophy and Political Ecology.The draft Climate Justice Charter is one such vehicle and deserves our full support.

The struggle for survival during the collapse of the Holocene, includes those already involved in conservation and preservation efforts and those who now join because of concerns about the detrimental impact of modern industrial technology. When one talks about climate justice we thus need to include the voices of those who have not been given an opportunity to speak, and remember that without mass mobilisation, nothing would have changed during apartheid.

Dear Extinction Generation

IT WAS June of 1991, the apartheid government had just unbanned political parties such as the ANC and PAC, exiles were returning to the country, and negotiations towards a new democratic dispensation were in full sway. The First National Conference on Environment & Development, organised by myself and my colleagues from the Cape Town Ecology Group (CTEG) and World Council on Religion and Peace (WCRP) was being held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

It was here that the campaign to include sustainable development in our country’s new constitution came to a head, with a mandate to ‘ecologise politics and politicise ecology’.

Solly Skosana of the PAC was of the view that ‘land apartheid had not disappeared and that a constituent assembly was the only mechanism in which environmental concerns over land distribution would be able to be addressed.’

There was consensus among delegates that unequal land distribution was a major cause of environmental problems in South Africa and that the land itself needed protection under the law.

Speaking on behalf of the ANC, Cheryl Carolus criticised the lack of political involvement by environmentalists in the past and made the point that her decision to get involved in politics had ‘arisen out of a desire to empower herself and to regain control over her environment.’

The issue of workers’ involvement in environmental issues was taken up by Nosey Peterse of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) who told delegates: “You can talk about environmental degradation but while you talk workers are losing their jobs because of environmental degradation.”

It was here too that I stood on a podium alongside Mike Kantey of Earthlife Africa, Ebrahim Rasool of WCRP and Julia Martin of CTEG, with delegates from across the political spectrum, to rally against apartheid while calling for a future in which the needs of future generations would not be compromised by the demands of our own generation.

As the conference drew to a close, we had no inkling of the dire consequences our nation would be facing today, with water shortages, air pollution and threatened ecosystems, nor did we realise back then, what it would take. Our actions back then simply introducing article 24 of our Constitution, enshrining Earth Rights, to impact and affect climate change and the lives of those yet to be born.

It was thus a twisted and tortuous politics which saw successive appointments of environmental ministers, from then Minister of Environment General Magnus Malan, to Dawid de Villiers, Pallo Jordan, Valli Moosa, Marthinus van Schalkwyk and Edna Molewa, each taking the credit for the groundbreaking inclusion of ‘ecological sustainable development’ in our nation’s constitution, and yet collectively responsible for the allied policies of the ruling party. Despite becoming the first country to include the environment in its bill of rights, the party proceeded to pave the way for mega coal projects, increasing of GHG emissions and lowering of air pollution standards.

You can read about the campaign to put Earth Rights into South Africa’s constitution here.

At the same time that the Mbeki administration was hosting the 2002 WSSD (the acclaimed “Earth Summit’ which produced very little of real substance) the ANC was promoting a crackpot policy sans physics which became known as ‘peak, plateau and decline‘. A neat phrase cooked up by the DEAT to describe a strange new political compromise between our constitutional imperatives, ‘the needs of the future’, and the diktat of the fossil fuel industry, in particular the opportunities (read curse) presented by our own country possessing abundant supplies of coal.

Thus when Min Gwede Mantashe opened a new colliery, while myopically claiming: “our vast coal deposits cannot be sterilised simply because we have not exploited technological innovations to use them,” he was articulating this self-same policy. It describes the apparent trade-offs to be made — ramping up our GHG in the short to medium term, so that we are on par with the West economically speaking, before reaching an abstract ‘plateau’, whereupon we will by some act of the imagination, decline our GHG profile (perhaps via slight of hand and creative accounting) — the introduction of a Carbon Tax, is yet unproven.

Every year, the time frame for the plateau and reduction of local GHG targets has been shifted, while the much vaunted Carbon Tax is slow on the uptake and still being implemented. The Climate Change Bill introduced in 2018, focuses on mitigation and adaptation as opposed to implementing a drastic about turn in energy policies.  Bare in mind the Carbon tax is an economic charge which Greenpeace has said, will not be ‘effective enough and far from adequate’.

Every policy decision thus far made by the ruling party, has been on the basis of the bad maths of these mantras introduced without much scientific consensus, and there is no precedent.

After negotiating a COP-out deal at Paris, which has allowed our country to continue with business as usual — South Africa’s pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement is ranked as “highly insufficient” — we are left with a Promethean struggle involving several massive coal mega-projects versus the reality of today. At 510.2377 mtCO2e pa our GHG profile is currently on par with the UK, a country with a population of 66 million people, as we begin to exceed the West in air pollution. Our country has been criticised internationally for “ delaying the development of policies to cut emissions.

It is thus with some sadness and poignancy that I read a letter addressed to our president and signed by some 50 local environmental organisations, demanding ‘an emergency sitting of Parliament to deliberate on the recently issued UN report on 1.5°C increase in planetary temperature and its implications for South African climate change policy.’

This while 300 kids marched from Parliament to the City Hall in Cape Town last Friday, to hand over a memorandum demanding government take “immediate action on the climate crises”. Following a mass demonstration on 15 March where thousands of school learners protested, calling on government to act against climate change. In various parts of the Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, where “youth collectives are meeting to learn about climate justice and organise, “writes Alex Lenferna

“Outside of the Union Buildings, young people rallied and delivered a petition to the president calling for climate justice now.”

Instead of declaring a climate crisis, President Ramaphosa, has chosen to skedaddle and bamboozle with stats and an unhelpful allusion to the climate problem during SONA. The government clearly lacks any real programme to deal with the crisis. This is not the first time that the ruling party has attempted to colour itself with the revelry of the green movement.

Stating that the President’s  ‘recognition of the climate crisis is the first step to fundamental change“, as a 17-year-old environmental activist Ruby Simpson does, is expecting a serial climate change denialist, to suddenly get science and find Gaia, because the reality is our nation’s policy of ‘peak, plateau and decline‘ is founded upon a tragic denial of the existential threats facing our planet and its people.

Regrettably, one can only express skepticism of presidential lip-service, uttered with pro-coal cynicism — successive ANC Presidents and their cabinets have shown themselves to ‘talk green, but walk with coal’. One has only to witness the abject failure of the President to address the detailed requirements of a ‘just transition’, and thus his startling refusal to acknowledge the implicit question of ‘whose justice?’

Without an immediate adoption of a climate emergency, articulated by the 2011 Durban Declaration, there can be no justice. And without a complete u-turn in our energy policies, there will be no future for our country.