Daily Archives: August 2, 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: JOINT EFFORT NEEDED TO BEAT ECONOMIC GROWTH SLUMP

PRETORIA– President Jacob Zuma says determination, unity and the willingness of all sectors to pull together is required to turn around the low economic growth situation in South Africa.

Addressing the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA) Agribusiness Transformation Conference on Monday in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, Zuma said the agriculture sector has an important role to play, along with other sectors, in ensuring future economic growth.

We value our agricultural sector immensely because it contributes to economic development as well as food security and job creation for our people.

He said the agriculture sector has been identified as a key platform for both transformation and growth and job creation.

In South Africa’s socio-economic development blueprint, the National Development Plan, it is estimated that agriculture has the potential to create one million jobs by the year 2030.

A productive agriculture sector also has the potential to transform rural areas into sustainable economic centres.

Zuma said the country’s vision for rural development will only be fully realised when the sector is successfully expanded and developed.

The country faces challenges of sustained low growth and investment, rising unemployment and the deteriorating position of public finances.

In the last budget, growth was expected to be 1.3%. It is now expected that it will be below 0.5%, Zuma said.

The weak consumer demand and stagnant business investment in the economy continue to be a challenge. This is exacerbated by the consistent slow growth of the global economy.

If we implement interventions successfully, which are linked to our Nine-Point Plan, we can breathe some life into the economy.

The President said the Nine-Point Plan includes focus areas such as energy, manufacturing, transport, telecommunications, agriculture, water, tourism, the ocean economy, mining, agriculture and industrialisation.

Government has committed to continue providing support to smallholder farmers, especially the commercialisation programme for 450 black smallholder farmers per year.

Government is finalising the AgriBEE Enforcement Regulations to enforce Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. The AgriBEE Sector Code provides guidelines for transformation in the agriculture sector. Some of the significant aspects in the Amended AgriBEE Sector Code is the inclusion of Farm Workers under Ownership Scorecard.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has also established the AgriBEE Fund, which is geared towards increasing black entrepreneurs in the sector.

The fund covers the funding of qualifying enterprise development initiatives, which are targeted at creating economic access and participation for black people in the agricultural sector.

Zuma said the national and provincial agriculture departments will provide status reports on their implementation of BEE elements such as Employment Equity, Management Control, Skills Development, Preferential Procurement, Enterprise Development and the Socio-Economic Development.

He urged farmers to use the existing programmes such as the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme, Ilima/Letsema, LandCare, and MAFISA [Micro Agricultural Financial Institutions of South Africa], which seeks to address the financial services needs of the smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.

We have also introduced innovative programmes such as Agricultural Parks or Agriparks in all 53 district municipalities. The parks will provide much needed markets for emerging farmers.

We are also looking at the establishment of more marketing outlets for emerging farmers and the establishment of local municipal markets.

Zuma said government is pleased with youth involvement in agriculture to ensure the sustainability of the sector.

We should ensure that this interest goes beyond land ownership to the willingness to productively utilise the land. We would be happy to see more learners taking up agriculture as a subject and more of them going to agricultural colleges.

DAFF has developed the Young Producers and Entrepreneurs Strategy to support the establishment of youth owned enterprises. Recently, the department introduced the Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (#YAFF).

This youth initiative intends to increase the participation of young producers or entrepreneurs in the mainstream of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. It also encourages South African youth to aspire for excellence in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Zuma said transformation must also include women in agriculture.

Government, through the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, recognises Women in Agriculture through its flagship programme known as the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

The President is confident that all interventions in agriculture will succeed if all sectors work together.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

Kenya’s New $3.2B Railway Frustrates Customers Ahead of Election

NAIROBI, KENYA � The new railway linking Nairobi to the port of Mombasa was supposed to be the crowning achievement of an infrastructure bonanza propelling President Uhuru Kenyatta to victory in Kenya’s August 8 polls.

Instead, more than two months after Kenyatta inaugurated it to great fanfare, the Chinese-built line is plagued with administrative problems, particularly the ticketing process that has made it impossible to buy tickets online or on the day of travel, for example.

The problem, critics say, is that the $3.2 billion project was rushed to completion ahead of the elections, before proper planning for issues such as transport to the line’s terminuses on the outskirts of the two traffic-clogged cities.

The government can claim some successes, notably 10,000 kilometers of new roads built during Kenyatta’s five-year term.

“We have invested heavily in infrastructure because it is the driver of economic growth and a key plank of our transformational agenda,” Kenyatta told a campaign rally in central Kenya in June.

But the railway, whose price tag helped send Kenya’s debt soaring above 50 percent of economic output, is not the only project facing problems.

Last month, a $12 million bridge in western Kenya, visited by Kenyatta while it was being built by a Chinese firm, collapsed before it was completed. A ferry ramp near Mombasa collapsed in April, a month after its inauguration by Kenyatta.

The new Nairobi-Mombasa railway has slashed to just over four hours what was a 12-hour journey on a line built by Kenya’s British colonial rulers a century ago.

But the hassle of buying a ticket has discouraged customers.

In addition to the lack of online purchasing, tickets must be bought three days in advance and only one-way, meaning prospective travelers make multiple early-morning trips to buy tickets at the stations.

Given that Kenya’s mobile phone payment system is among the most advanced in the world, there is no excuse for the antiquated purchasing system, frustrated customers say.

Customer dismayed

Peter Kialo had nearly reached the front of the queue at the Nairobi ticket office last week, an hour after it opened, when he discovered the 700 shilling ($7) economy class tickets had sold out, leaving only first class available at 1,500 shillings.

“How come the train is already fully booked and the office has only just opened?” he asked. “I don’t understand.”

A spokesman for Kenya Railways told reporter that while the railway is state-owned, China Roads and Bridges Corp., the company that built the line, has the contract to manage operations, including ticketing.

Transport Minister James Wainaina Macharia said the ticketing problems were a minor part of a major achievement. He denied the railway’s opening had been rushed to be ready for elections and said the online payment system was being tested to ensure it was safe from hacking.

“As for ticketing, that is an administrative issue that you’d expect to happen for any major operation,” he said.

He acknowledged “middlemen” buying tickets for resale were a problem, however. A Mombasa court last month charged five people with selling tickets without permission from Kenya Railways.

The middlemen seem to have inside help, customers complain.

When a handful of men appeared within the locked gates at the head of the queue last week in Nairobi, just before the office opened at 7 a.m., security guards ignored customer protests.

Shouts of “Who are they?” and “That’s not fair!” rose from the queue.

Kenya Railways managing director Atana Maina issued a statement last week acknowledging problems and announcing the company hoped to launch an online payment system and a mobile application “in the next few weeks.”

Source: Voice of America

Rape accused gets 15 years imprisonment

A thorough and responsive investigation led to sentencing of a 29-year-old accused to fifteen years imprisonment for rape on Tuesday, 01 August 2017 by the Ganyesa Regional Court.

The accused’s sentencing followed an incident in which he raped a 15-year-old minor in September 2015 at Ga-Mogopa Section in Morokweng village. It was reported at the time of the incident that the victim went to his neighbour (accused)’s place accompanied by his younger brother to ask for assistance with magazines as part of her school project.

The accused chased the victim’s younger brother back home and dragged the victim into the house where he raped her. The victim was allowed to go home after the ordeal and eventually reported the incident to her older sister who informed their mother. The matter was reported to the police who successfully traced and arrested the accused.

The North West provincial management welcomed the sentence and commended the investigating team for securing the conviction.

Source: South African Police Service

Deputy President Ramaphosa receives Democratic Alliance petition

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has noted and received the Democratic Alliance (DA) petition presented to the Office of the Deputy President on Wednesday, 02 August 2017, which relates to proceedings in Parliament on Tuesday, 8 August 2017.

The matters raised in the petition will be dealt with by the National Assembly on 8 August 2017.

Enquiries – Tyrone Seale: Acting Spokesperson for the Deputy President – 083 5757 440

Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa

South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda Near Million Mark

MIREYI, UGANDA � Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, prayed on Wednesday with South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, home to a nearly million fugitives from a four-year civil war in the world’s youngest nation.

Around 1.8 million people have fled South Sudan since fighting broke out in December 2013, sparking what has become the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and largest cross-border exodus in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Most have fled south to Uganda, whose open-door refugee policy is now creaking under the sheer weight of numbers in sprawling camps carved out of the bush.

“The Bible tells us that the refugee is specially loved by God,” Welby, leader of the 85-million strong Anglican Communion, said as he joined in prayers in a camp in the northern district of Moyo.

“Which means you who are refugees are specially loved by God, that Jesus himself was a refugee and he loves you and he stands with you and the suffering that you have is the suffering that he knows. So I pray for you, I will advocate for you.”

Officials from the United Nations UNHCR refugee agency say $674 million is needed to pay for the basic needs of the refugees this year, but so far only 21 percent of those funds have been secured.

The total number of refugees is due to pass a million in the next week, UNHCR officials said. Nor is there any sign of a let-up in the stream of desperate civilians.

Some days it is only hundreds. On others, it is thousands.

In the camps, refugees are already on half their standard food rations of 12kg of maize a month, and now critical services such as health and education are facing cut-backs, UNHCR officials said.

In Bidi-Bidi, the largest of the refugee camps, 180 South Sudanese died in the first six months of the year, nearly half of them small children.

“We came here to hide ourselves from death,” said 31-year-old Moro Bullen, standing next to a row of 16 freshly dug graves, mounds of rust-red earth arranged in three neat rows. Half of the graves were only a meter long. “We did not come here to die. We came here to be rescued.”

Splintered Conflict

Although the roots of the war lie in the animosity between President Salva Kiir, who hails from South Sudan’s powerful Dinka ethnic group, and his former deputy, Riek Machar, a Nuer, it has splintered into a patchwork of overlapping conflicts.

Machar is under house arrest in South Africa, having fled there last year to seek medical attention, but there has been little let-up in the levels of conflict, especially in the Equatoria region abutting Uganda.

“It has evolved significantly. There are many actors. Because there are many actors now it has become more violent.

The prognosis is not encouraging in terms of achieving peace,” said Brian Adeba of the Washington-based Enough Project.

Refugees have told reporter of towns and villages emptied by government forces, dominated by the Dinka, with men, women and children summarily executed, and their bodies mutilated.

Rights groups have also reported widespread rape and looting that the United Nations says indicates ethnic cleansing. It has also warned of a possible genocide in a country that only came into being in 2011, when South Sudan split from Sudan.

The government has denied the reports, and said its troops are merely conducting operations against rebel militiamen.

Source: Voice of America