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Dozens arrested in KZN after new land invasion bid at iSimangaliso World Heritage Site

More than 70 people have been arrested after a land grab attempt at the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site in KwaZulu-Natal — the second such attempt this year.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park authorities confirmed on Thursday that 71 people had been arrested after they allegedly began occupying land in the Futululu forest adjacent to Lake St Lucia earlier this week.
Futululu is the largest remaining patch of indigenous coastal lowland forest in the country after the adjoining Dukuduku forest was occupied in the late 1980s and progressively destroyed by subsistence farmers. The park is also South Africa’s first World Heritage Site, designated for global protection because of its outstanding international conservation value.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority said in a statement that the most recent land grab attempt started on Tuesday when a group of people invaded the Futululu forest, demanding the land for farming purposes and some stands were also being sold for residential purposes.
“SAPS was called and a large number of people estimated to be about 71 were arrested.
“The first wave of illegal invasion started on 21st of March 2022 when approximately 100 people invaded the Futululu forest using the access point opposite the entrance of the South African [National] Defence Force (SANDF) base known as 121 Battalion.
“The number of the invaders kept growing and was estimated to be about 300 people at some point. iSimangaliso brought an application to the Pietermaritzburg High Court seeking court intervention as efforts to engage the community and the invaders through dialogue and meetings were not yielding positive results as some community members continued with the invasion and were destroying park infrastructure.”
The Pietermaritzburg High Court granted an interim interdict on 11 April which stated: “The respondents and anyone acting through or with the respondents are interdicted from entering or invading, occupying and/or removing any vegetation and/or erecting any structures on the area known as the Futululu.”
On 23 June, the court handed down a final order that interdicted anyone “from entering or invading, occupying and/or removing any vegetation and/or erecting any structures on the area known as the Futululu Forest, within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, without the permission of iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority”.
“iSimangaliso would like to express its disappointment that despite the instruction of the court there are some elements of the community who have decided to again embark on unlawful activities and trespassing while the engagement with communities is still in progress,” said the Park Authority.
“Since the ...

SA’s proposed fracking regulations need to do more to protect groundwater from contamination

The country may turn to unconventional oil and gas resources to augment its energy supply but some methods to extract oil and gas can contaminate and deplete groundwater.
South Africa is extremely water-scarce, and water supply will become more challenging in the future. The population and economy are growing, increasing demand. Rainfall is variable and more extreme and prolonged droughts are expected because of climate change. More than 80% of South Africa’s available surface water resources are already allocated for use. Groundwater resources will therefore become more important in South Africa.
There is, however, a potential threat to those groundwater resources. South Africa depends heavily on coal for energy but its coal resources are being depleted. The country may turn to unconventional oil and gas resources to augment energy supply. And methods to extract oil and gas can contaminate and deplete groundwater.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is used to extract trapped oil and gas from underground geological formations. A mixture of water, chemicals and sand is injected into these formations under high pressure. This opens up micro-fractures in the rock to release the trapped oil and gas, but it can also disturb the deep geological formations and aquifers. Groundwater can be contaminated if deep saline groundwater migrates to potable groundwater resources via hydraulic connections.
In addition to migration of saline groundwater, the chemicals used during fracking can contaminate groundwater. Wastewater may also get into groundwater via spills and leaks. And the hydraulic fracturing process requires large volumes of water.
Regulations that are properly developed and enforced are therefore vital to protect groundwater resources in South Africa when extracting unconventional oil and gas.
Regulations to protect groundwater
On 7 May 2021, the Department of Water and Sanitation published regulations on the use of water in oil and gas extraction. And on 11 July 2022, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment published proposed regulations for the exploration and production of onshore oil and gas for public comment. These regulations aim to protect the environment during oil and gas development.
The environment department also published a document for comment specifying what information must be supplied when applying for a licence to produce oil and gas. The two departments’ regulations should be read together since both protect groundwater resources.
Based on a survey of South African groundwater experts that my colleagues and I conducted, I’ve reviewed the proposed regulations and identified aspects that need attention.
A strength of the regulations ...

African digital innovators are turning plastic waste into value, but there are gaps – here’s what can be done

There are promising start-ups across the continent transforming the plastic value chain into a smart, innovative and sustainable network. But there are challenges, such as scaling.
Plastic pollution is a growing global menace. Between 2010 and 2020, the global production of plastics increased from 270 million tonnes to 367 million tonnes. Every year, more than 12 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans, with severe consequences for marine life. When macroplastics degrade into microplastics, they easily contaminate the food chain and pose significant threats to human health via inhalation and ingestion.
By 2030, plastic waste is expected to double to 165 million tonnes in African countries. Most of this will be in Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
A significant proportion of the plastic that ends up on African shores is produced in developed, industrialised countries. By 2010, it was estimated that close to 4.4 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste ended up in oceans and seas off the coast of Africa every year. A 2022 estimate put this number at 17 million tonnes.
Growing numbers of NGOs and innovators across the continent are responding to the challenge. They are developing digital solutions to reduce plastic waste generation, and promoting reuse and recycling of plastic products. Increasingly, African tech hubs are incorporating environmental sustainability into their business models.
In our recent paper, we highlight ongoing efforts and innovations in what is called the plastic value chain. This comprises four phases, from the design of plastic products to manufacture, use and end of life.
We found a number of initiatives that are transforming the plastic value chain into a smart, innovative and sustainable network. Most aim to improve plastic identification, collection, transport, sorting, processing and reuse. Some focus on the earlier phases: design and production of plastic products.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Plastic waste polluting South Africa’s oceans needs answers from bright young minds”
A whole-value-chain approach to the circular plastic economy is very important. While the majority of plastic waste management activities tend to focus on the use and end-of-life phases, more attention needs to be given to design and manufacture. This is where the problem of plastic waste begins.
Worldwide, attention is turning to designing simpler and standardised products that are easier to recycle and reuse.
Innovators cracking the code
A Nigerian software company, Wecyclers, operates a rewards-for-recycling platform. It offers incentives to individuals and households in low-income communities to make money and capture ...

Foot-and-mouth disease forces cattle movement ban in SA

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, has suspended the movement of cattle in South Africa due to increasing cases of foot-and-mouth disease.
The Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) has called on all cattle farmers to work with the government to curb the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the country, which has led to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, suspending all movement of cattle across the country.
Didiza’s decision comes after 116 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease were reported in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Free State.
The order means that cattle may not be moved from one property to another for any reason for a period of 21 days. This will be reviewed weekly.
The RPO’s James Faber said the disease outbreak in South Africa was a serious problem for everyone.
“The announcement by the minister is a concern to us, but it is a step in the right direction to getting this disease under control. We must see it in the light that there are already 116 FMD outbreaks in the country, and this is the most that we have ever lived to see in South Africa,” said Faber.
“It makes no sense for us not to try to stop it. Our concern is also that none of the producers can market their cattle at this time. But we must get behind the department in fighting FMD and try to stop it.”
Faber said a lot of work had already been done by the state veterinarian and the government, as well as from the red meat producer’s side.
‘Almost winning fight’
“We are almost winning the fight against FMD at the moment. We have seen the economic side of cattle dying, and that is why we ask all the producers to maintain security at their farms. this is the fight of every farmer if we want to curb the disease as fast as possible so that we can continue with our businesses,” he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Didiza acknowledged the efforts made by farmers, communities and industries to curb the movement of animals from hotspot areas and to improve biosecurity on animal holdings.
“However, the disease continues to spread, with 15 new properties and two new provinces affected in the last two weeks alone. The ban will be declared in the Government Gazette. Any disregard for the movement ban is a criminal offence,” she said.
Didiza ...

Electricity action plan must be rational, measured and defensible – and deter opportunistic projects

There is a dangerous narrative circulating that due to the current energy crisis, South Africa must take any and all electrons that are available. But some electrons come at too high a price, and South Africans would be left paying for these panic purchases for a long time.
The greatest risk to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new electricity action plan is that it could be leveraged by vested interests. We have already seen how the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMI4P) led to false solutions and short-sighted initiatives such as expensive, 20-year power purchase agreements with gas-to-power giant Karpowership.
Achieving energy security is absolutely imperative, but to avoid the mistakes of the past, the presidency must act decisively and with a cool head. What the country needs is a plan that ends rolling blackouts as fast as possible, without locking in deals that could have negative long-term impacts, such as undermining the ongoing transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
A good start
There is little serious disagreement that the electricity system of the future will be dominated by distributed renewable energy and storage, at a variety of scales and owned by a diversity of stakeholders. Many of the announced actions align with this trajectory, but the devil will be in the details, which are not yet available.
The plan recognises the need to adjust regulations and financial mechanisms, like tax incentives and tariffs, to encourage more potential generators to enter the market. The increased efforts to prevent damage, theft and sabotage at Eskom facilities are also welcome.
Among the positive steps, there are still areas where policymakers will need to proceed cautiously. For example, relaxing the local content rules so that today’s new energy projects are not delayed must be balanced with fostering increased local production of components and upstream industrialisation. And, as ever, energy efficiency should receive more attention.
However, the good news comes alongside worrying indicators that policymakers have not yet closed the door on mistakes of the past, leaving room to pursue projects contrary to the national interest.
Lessons from the last rolling blackouts ‘solution’
To solve the current crisis effectively, policymakers need to understand why prior plans to address rolling blackouts failed and avoid the same mistakes.
A previous strategy, the RMI4P, aimed to fill the short-term power supply gap and alleviate electricity supply constraints. Unfortunately, the RMI4P has become an embarrassment. It set out to connect power to the grid by June 2022, ...

African penguins endangered by shipping noise in Algoa Bay, scientific report finds

CAPE TOWN, Aug 16 (Reuters) - The already endangered African penguin is being driven away from its natural habitat off the east coast of South Africa due to noise from ship refuelling, a scientific study has found.
The number of African penguins on St Croix island in Algoa Bay, once the world’s largest breeding colony of the birds, has plummeted since South Africa started to allow ships in the area to refuel at sea, a process known as bunkering, six years ago, the study found.
Situated in a busy shipping lane along South Africa’s east coast, Algoa Bay is rich in marine and bird life where southern right whales roam in its sheltered waters.
“We found the noise levels, which were already high, to have doubled,” since bunkering began, Lorien Pichegru, acting director of the Coastal and Marine Research Institute at Nelson Mandela University, which led the study, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Elevated noise levels affect marine animals’ ability to find and corral prey, communicate or navigate properly, scientists have previously found.
“This year we are at 1,200 breeding pairs at St Croix from 8,500 pairs in 2016, an almost 85% decrease since bunkering started in South Africa,” Pichegru said. “I was counting the dead birds every month on the beach of the bay.”
The new study, published on Aug. 10 in the peer-reviewed ‘Science of the Total Environment’ journal, is the first to explore the impact of maritime traffic noise pollution on a seabird, and the consequence of offshore bunkering activities on underwater noise levels, researchers said.
Creecy has new plan to halt rapid decline of African penguin
South Africa’s Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in 2016 awarded the country’s first offshore bunkering operator’s license to Aegean Marine in a controversial closed tender, and then awarded two subsequent licenses to SA Marine Fuels and Heron Marine in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Aegean, now trading as Minerva, is a wholly-owned unit of global energy trader Mercuria and Heron Marine is a subsidiary of rival Trafigura, while SA Marine Fuels is majority owned by Oryx Energies.
Trafigura, Minerva and Oryx Energies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A moratorium on new licenses, in place since August 2019, will only be lifted once an environmental impact assessment is completed by port authorities. The assessment is expected next year, a SAMSA official said.
Nelson Mandela University’s study used vessel-identification tool data to estimate underwater noise from ships as a proxy for underwater ambient noise ...

SA wool farmers fear the worst if China ban continues

South African wool farmers are struggling to survive after China banned the import of all cloven-hoofed animals and their products after foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks.
Wool farmers in South Africa have raised concern about the ban on wool exports to China from South Africa triggered by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks in the country. China announced the ban on 1 April.
Farmer Hendrik van der Walt said he would suffer financially because of the ban.
“This will also impact my farming practices. The demand for shorter lengths [of wool] is much less in the European markets. To ensure we shear long enough wool I will have to change from shearing in an eight-month interval to a 10-month interval.”
He said if the ban continued he would lose 30% to 40% of his shearing income.
“In the long run, I may have to retrench some of my workers. Coming out of the recent drought, the added strain of further loss of income will make it difficult. to continue farming.
“Longer shearing intervals and some wool that will not be sold and lower prices will put further strain on a cash flow that is already strained,” he said.
Minimum standards
Communal farmer Siphiwo Makinana said: “The South African wool industry complied with the conditions set by China regarding heating of wool. Because of lack of infrastructure. the wool sheep and wool of communal farmers and emerging farmers are below the minimum standards required by Europe.
“The communal farmers are hard hit by this ban. I lost R150,000. Retrenchment is obvious if this ban continues. I urge China to lift the ban.”
Makinana said the South African government should negotiate with China.
“It should be remembered that we are [coming] from a heavy drought and we have not recovered from last season’s floods. China is our only hope as communal farmers.”
Another farmer, Luvo Kiyane, said he used the money he earned from selling wool “to pay my employees, send children to school and put food on the table. The ban on wool by China will affect me badly as prices will decrease. Many emerging and communal farmers will stop farming.”
Kiyane said if the ban continued he would be forced to retrench workers.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“The FMD also affects us when we sell our cattle at the abattoirs. The price of a kilogram of beef has dropped and abattoirs don’t want to buy cattle from us, fearing FMD. If China ...

Small-scale Western Cape fishers call for halt to gas and oil exploration

‘When foreign companies drill for oil in our oceans, fish die,’ say angry Western Cape fishers.
Dozens of small-scale fishers held a demonstration at the Paarden Eiland entrance to Cape Town Harbour on Monday. They want government to stop approving permits for oceanic oil and gas exploration.
They held placards that read: “Fishers’ rights are human rights” and “Oil and water do not mix”. Many passing motorists hooted in support of the demonstration.
Liziwe McDaid, The Green Connection’s strategic leader, said frustrated fishers had asked for help with the demonstration. She said the message to government was to “stop drilling the oceans”.
She said the fishers needed to have a voice in such decisions.
Solene Smith, chair of Coastal Links in Langebaan, said, “We have been fighting oil and gas exploration for years, but we have not yet won the fight.”
Camelita Mostert, chair of Coastal Links in Saldanha, said she hires about 54 fishers to work on her two boats. The catch is sold to the community.
“When foreign companies drill for oil in our oceans, fish die. The noise from drilling causes fish to disappear . We won’t allow the government and foreign companies to take over our oceans,” she said.
“Snoek season was bad. Small boats used to get between 160 to 250 fish per day,” she said. Now they only catch 20 to 50 fish per day.
Wendy Pekeur, Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement founder and coordinator, said, “As Minister of the Environment, [Barbara] Creecy should be the first person to say no to drilling in the oceans.”
The African Climate Alliance, 350org, Greenpeace Africa, Masifundise, Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth and the Social Justice Coalition attended the demonstration in solidarity with the fishers. DM
Originally published on GroundUp.

Success of Ramaphosa’s energy action plan hinges on effective implementation, say business and labour

In a Daily Maverick webinar on Thursday, representatives of organised labour and business agreed that the key to the success of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recently announced energy action plan depends on its timeous and effective implementation.
“We need to work together to implement,” said Cas Coovadia, the CEO of Business Unity South Africa (Busa). He was responding to a question put to him by Business Maverick’s Ray Mahlaka on Thursday in a Daily Maverick webinar. Lebogang Mulaisi, the head of the Policy Unit at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) shared similar sentiments.
The trio was discussing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recently announced “energy action plan” to end rolling blackouts and place South Africa on a trajectory towards sustainable energy security, and whether the plan went far enough, could do what it was pitched to do and what potential obstacles lay ahead.
Daily Maverick previously reported that Ramaphosa announced a set of actions to respond to South Africa’s yearslong energy crisis. The planned actions include improving the performance of Eskom’s fleet of power stations, increasing and accelerating the procurement of new generation capacity and increasing the participation of private actors in the electricity sector.
Here it is: Ramaphosa’s ‘energy action plan’ to end SA’s rolling blackouts
Asked whether the plan goes far enough to address the energy crisis, Mulaisi said: “What I think the plan does and what it was meant to do was to address a crisis. And I think that’s just what it does. It’s helping us to kind of build the building blocks on how to address the current crises.
“We know the ripple effect that load shedding has on our society is not good for a country that’s coming out of a post-pandemic recovery trajectory. It can’t be good for business, it can’t be good for growth, and if those things come together in a melting pot where there’s high poverty, high unemployment, high inequality, it’s just an implosion waiting to happen, so I think we can agree on the fact that it helps us to address the current challenges.”
She added, however, that the plan had its shortcomings, notably the omission of the issue of Eskom’s roughly R396-billion debt.
“We can bring in all the private sector participation that we want to bring into the system, Eskom still remains critical. It remains critical for expanding electricity, particularly to poor and indigent communities. So we need to keep that organisation intact.”
Coovadia said that ...

Sewage spill killed Isipingo Beach Lagoon fish, say activists

A clean-up is under way after hundreds of fish washed up on the Durban beach over the weekend, and the City has urged locals not to collect or eat them while it investigates.
Hundreds of dead fish washed up from Isipingo Beach Lagoon in Durban over the weekend and environmental activists and fishers blame a broken sewer pump station. Now they are calling on the municipality to take action.
In an update on 9 August 2022, the eThekwini Municipality admitted there was a problem at a pump station, saying that in the interest of public safety, the City had decided to prohibit access to the affected water courses until the pump station was repaired.
Between January 2014 and November 2020 there have been a number of media reports about hundreds of dead fish at Isipingo Beach. Janet Simpkins, founder of local river watchdog group Adopt-a-River, said the City had posted about the issue on Facebook, “and if this is a known fault, why have greater efforts not been made to solve the root cause of this pollution”.
She said they were seeing recurring incidents of river pollution, not only in Isipingo but also the Umgeni River. “It’s a number of pollutants that are affecting our rivers. This is not related to the floods as it is an ongoing thing.”
KwaZulu-Natal Subsistence Fishing Forum ex-chairperson Riaz Khan said: “Looking at the moss and the green colour of the sand. the sewage is what killed the fish. This is bad and as it is not only the little fish that have died, it’s hundreds of different species that died. The water is heavily contaminated and there is a strong stench coming from the water.”
Khan said this is totally unacceptable as hundreds of fishers use the area to feed their families.
“The City is saying people must not fish or eat fish from the area, but they have made no provision for the fisherfolk who depend on fishing to survive in the area and surrounding areas,” he said.
Khan said the municipality is not willing to compensate the people who fish there.
“With the escalating rate of unemployment, the fisherfolk are not looking for handouts. they use their skills to fish and sell their fish to feed their families. The City cannot take care of its infrastructure and there is no hope for the people who live by fishing in the polluted area.
“I don’t know where is the spirit of ubuntu ...

South Africa’s proposed electricity industry reform may well be lost in translation

Three years have already passed since the government published its 2019 Roadmap and the desired outcomes will not be achieved in the time frame given.
South Africa’s ruling party recently proposed establishing a second state-owned power company. The purpose is to offset the “grave strategic risk” of relying on Eskom, the country’s monolithic state-owned utility.
Some 15 years of poor operational and financial performance, and disruptions to the nation’s electricity supply, led President Cyril Ramaphosa to speak of a “spectacular calamity” facing the nation should Eskom fail as a corporate entity. In his July address to the 15th National Congress of the South African Communist Party he said Eskom had been operating according to a model that is no longer suited to the technology or the economic conditions of the present.
Ramaphosa then reportedly held up China’s power sector as an example South Africa could learn from.
China’s experience is that supply shortages and a lack of investment in the sector during the 1980s led to the unbundling of the State Power Company in 2003. It was separated into five power generation companies and two transmission companies. The full legal separation from the State Power Company was critical because China wanted the private sector to invest in power generation. Investors had to be protected from the financial legacy of the State Power Company and allowed to compete.
Ramaphosa did not mention Australia’s experience of industry restructuring, but there are lessons to be learned there too.
In a nutshell, over roughly three years the Australian State of Victoria unbundled its State Electricity Commission. Brown coal, gas and hydropower stations were established as legally separate state-owned companies. Transmission was formed as a proprietary company. System Operations was established as an independent not-for-profit company with shareholder oversight. Grid rules were developed, an economic regulator was established to oversee network charges, and short-term bulk power supply agreements were vested with generators.
South Africa’s energy roadmap
South Africa’s government published its own reform options as a “roadmap” in 2019. It envisaged Eskom Holdings being unbundled into several state-owned power generation companies, transmission, and system and market operations.
The roadmap anticipated the reform process to take place over several years. Eskom would emerge with optimised operations, restructured finances and a sustainable business model. It would have “appropriate controls to ensure that the recent incidences of irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure are a thing of the past.”
Three years have already passed and these outcomes will not ...

Meeting between UPL and stakeholder forum was not meant for broader community or media

The fact of the matter is that the interim Multi-Stakeholder Forum and UPL agreed to discuss their engagement with the media as part of their discussions in respect of future ‘public’ meetings.
The article, “UPL ban Daily Maverick from community meeting on Cornubia pesticide warehouse fire aftermath” (Daily Maverick, 26 July 2022) refers.
The facts represented in the article about the meeting between UPL’s experts and the interim Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) on 23 July are mischaracterised and misrepresented. This is made even more regrettable given that it was a successful and constructive engagement, which spent a substantial amount of time reviewing the significant progress made by UPL in restoring the areas affected by the consequences of the arson attack on its leased warehouse.
The facts are that this was never a “community meeting” and that Daily Maverick was not banned from the meeting. The meeting was jointly set up by UPL and the interim MSF as an orientation meeting between the members of the MSF and the UPL experts. On the request of the interim MSF, there was late agreement to invite the Joint Operations Committee, but it was never intended that the broader community or any media would be invited.
The correspondence quoted in the article, between UPL’s environmental attorneys and the convenor of the interim MSF, is unfortunately selective. Below is the complete exchange of correspondence between UPL’s environmental attorney and the convenor of interim MSF after he requested that only Mr [Tony] Carnie (and not all media) attend the engagement.
UPL’s environmental attorney [Norman Brauteseth]:
“Your anticipation of UPL’s response is correct. I’m afraid the meeting cannot go ahead if the MSF insists on journalists being present. This is a meeting for the interim committee of the MSF, and we can talk about reportage on the meeting once it has been held. What we do about further meetings, and whether there should be a more open public meeting in due course, is the next step in our interactions.
Please confirm that this is agreed.
The interim MSF convenor, Mr [Jeremy] Ridl, responded:
“Your response is as expected.
No invitations to the media until we have decided how future ‘public’ meetings might be conducted.
All the best.”
It is therefore clear that Daily Maverick was not banned from a community meeting, as it alleges. Rather, the interim MSF and UPL agreed to discuss their engagement with the media as part of their discussions in respect of future “public” meetings.
This was ...

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