Archive | Mining, beneficiation

Parliament embroiled in state capture

State capture emerges as a fact  …

An impression might have been given recently that parliamentary meetings only occur as and when e-NCA cherry picks a meeting for the evening news on the subject of state capture.   Therefore, one might think, every parliamentary meeting is either about the SABC or Eskom, Transnet or Denel.   Nothing could further from the truth.

Although the perverse facts behind the carefully planned act of state capture, involving Bell Pottinger, the Gupta family, their friends and associates, the actual crime in parliamentary terms  is non-disclosure to Parliament committed by public servants in the name of the same “prominent” persons, plus lying and falsification in terms of an oath taken to serve the nation.

Parliament, as a structure, has remained untarnished as the second pillar of separated powers. It is the players who have broken faith.

Hundreds of meetings

This is not to say that truth has always been exercised in Parliament in the past nor to claim that from the President down to backbenchers, all have been unaware that fake news has been fielded in parliamentary meetings.  But what is heartening is that the parliamentary process has been an enormous hurdle for the crooked to overcome.

In any one of the four sessions a year, each roughly equating in timelines to the terms of a school calendar, there are some three to four hundred committee meetings in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

The subject matters covered represent the activities of forty seven government departments, literally hundreds of SOEs and all legislation which is tabled for the Statute Book must be debated.   All this is conducted with two audiences. It is a daunting programme.

Standing out

But soon it was noticeable that it was the meetings on SOEs, particularly those with their own boards and where tender processes were involved, that there was  a common theme emerging.   In each case it was a matter of strategic decisions not being taken to Parliament for approval; balance sheets not squaring up to meet the requirements of the Auditor General and the sudden arrival of newly appointed board members with little or no experience of matters under discussion.

It all stood out like a sore thumb.   Meanwhile, investigative journalism was to become a major force in parliamentary affairs.

In fact it was the parliamentary system that began slowly to reject  the manipulative processes being fielded.  Many an MP started demanding investigative reports from Cabinet ministers with cross-party support;  parliamentary rules were enforced in order to restrain the passage of  mischievous legislation and the pointing of fingers and the use of the kind of language that is only allowed under  parliamentary privilege contributed to the wearing down of the cover-up machine.

To the rescue

Eventually, between the AmaBhungane team and the BDFM team and others such as City Press, investigative journalism saved the day.   It could then be seen in writing that many of the issues so slowly being uncovered in Parliament, where nobody could pierce the web of intrigue and see the picture in its entirety, the full story was beginning to  take shape.

The extent of the theft is still not known and still emerging are new players in the list of “prominent persons”.  There is also still no apparent follow up by either SAPS or the Hawks, nor matters acted upon by the National Prosecuting Authority.

Worse, many do not expect this to happen – so cynical has the taxpayer become and so deep are the criminal waters.  But, as the saying goes, “every dog has its day”.

In the engine room

Despite the bad publicity for Parliament and the institution itself being under fire as to whether or not Parliament is a reliable democratic tool, a good number of MPs, especially opposition members, have been slaving away.     This is despite the appointed Secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, going on “special leave” whilst allegations into his possible violations of the PMFA are investigated.

Mgidlana was appointed as “CEO” of Parliament by the Presidency.     His jaunts overseas accompanied by his wife are the subject of investigation and have been the cause of strike action by parliamentary staff for nearly a year, whilst their own pay packets are frozen.

This matter seems to have mirrored the very issues being debated in Parliament.   Fortunately and most responsibly, the strikes have been orchestrated so as to have little major effect on the parliamentary schedule

Top heavy

Meanwhile, despite the top guy being a passenger in his own system, notices are going out on time, the parliamentary schedule is available every morning and the regular staff are hard at it. Now is the time in the parliamentary diary when the April budget vote is activated; money is made available and departmental programmes initiated.    Hearings have been conducted on many important pieces of legislation.

There is an extraordinary team in Cape Town which runs Parliament, especially researchers and secretaries to committees.

Train smash

Added to this, if it was not enough, a normally busy schedule was further complicated by urgent meetings on poor governance; tribunal findings; briefings for new members of Cabinet and the fact that to match President Zuma’s ever-expanding Cabinet with appropriate government departments there were some fifty portfolio and select committees all being served by a reduced Parliamentary staff.

The extent to which corruption is embedded into government’s spending programme makes parliamentary oversight a difficult and lengthy task, especially when under performance or poor governance matters are involved.   It all reflects the times we live in. In one day alone there  is not enough parliamentary time for a whole range of public servants to be “in the dock” to answer questions on matters involving millions of rand.

No court of law

To be fair, it is often as difficult for the respondent to get around to answering as it is for parliamentarians to get to the truth.  When you know the boss is on the take, how does one answer?   Issues tend to go around in circles.

Sifting out the rhetoric when the truth is shrouded in political intrigue is no easy task in Parliament especially when people are frightened of losing their jobs.

As the millions of rand stolen turn into billions of rand during the early part of 2017 and parliamentary committees were introduced to new “acting” directors in charge of government funding, TV cameras popped up in all corners of the parliamentary precinct.    One was constantly tripping over metres and metres of black cable to caravan control rooms enabling the public to watch the latest saga.

Camera shy

At the same time, Parliament is clearly now being side-lined by members of the Cabinet or avoided by Directors General and this maybe because of this new found public form of entertainment of spotting the good guys and shaming the captured ones.

In the past, the abuse of parliamentary rules by the incumbent President used to be considered as country-boy innocence but now the position has changed.     As any election approaches, parliamentary rhetoric always descends into low grade babble in the National Assembly but this time it is very different.  there is a clear disconnect between Parliament and the President.

With the addition of the now infamous “white minority capital” campaign to the debate, orchestrated ostensibly as we now know from London (as probably was the over employed expression of “radical economic transformation”) most of the forty-seven ministers and deputy ministers hammered out the same slogans in their budget vote speeches 9r at any given opportunity to speak, as if orchestrated.

Looking back: 2nd session

Going back to the beginning of 2016/7, Parliament has ploughed through the Nkandla mess; the SABC crisis; the Eskom governance exposures; the troubles at SAA; the failures and manipulations at Denel; crookery at Transnet; the PRASA scandals and in the losses at PetroSA, the latter being just sheer bad management it seems driven by political desire.

All of this has involved a lot of committee time far better spent on enlightening issues to assist the economy and create jobs. The “blame game” simply led to a jungle of write offs with no explanations but, suddenly, an ill-timed series of cabinet re-shuffles rattled a hundred cages.

D-day

Friday, March 31, 2017 will always be remembered following a period of stun grenades and parliamentary brawling in the House as President Zuma announced yet another set of choices to make up his Cabinet.  In committee meetings, in no less than eight portfolios, new or changed Ministers and Deputy Ministers appeared at meetings with little background.

The second session of the 2017 Parliament had this extraordinary start and on it ending, the arrival of the Gupta emails has now confirmed and named many involved in the whole issue of truthful depositions before Parliament.  No doubt a lot more shocks are yet to come.

The next session of Parliament will represent one of the arenas where the gladiatorial challenge will be played out on state capture together with the battle to avoid fusion in the separation of powers.

It is to be hoped that spring at the end of the third session will herald more than just another summer.

 

Previous articles on category subject
Zuma vs Parliament – ParlyReportSA
Parliament awaits to hear from Cabinet – ParlyReportSA
Parliament goes into Easter recess – ParlyReportSA

Posted in cabinet, Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Parliament may see delays on Mining Bill

Mining and petroleum bill to hit snags

Overwhelmingly evident is the cloud hanging over the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill (MPRDA), linked inextricably to a troubled Mining Charter, some movement on the MPRDA being necessary to restore stability to the mining industry in the form of legislative clarity.

Legislative clarity will also allow the petroleum and gas industry to hopefully go into a development phase.  Here the players need an equal playing field, the State in this case getting a free stake possibly at 20% but paying no development costs since the State now has ownership of the resources.

Free lunches

There is one further possible hurdle on the horizon.      Aside from issues surrounding the Charter, which is technically a non-parliamentary issue, the application of Parliamentary Rules regarding the great number of changes that are being made to the Bill raise procedural issues.

It is indeed a very different Bill to that which was voted through Parliament earlier and passed by the National Assembly.

For the moment, now that provincial opinion on the more recent changes to the MPRDA have been returned,  the provinces each having voted and recorded their nine mandates on the subject, the idea is that the Bill can then finally be returned to the Presidency, possibly via the NA Committee to lodge the changes.

First things first

There is a sense emerging that the offshore gas industry is a little happier with the free carry proposals but on the other side of negotiations it appears, from the media, that the Chamber of Mines is struggling to find common ground with Minister Zwane on the Mining Charter, referred to in the MPRDA but not legislatively part of it.

It is difficult to imagine any Mining and Petroleum Resources Development Act, as amended, being in force without an agreed and new Mining Charter in place. However,  developments in this area will have to be watched.

Last in queue

In the list of Bills before Parliament the MPRDA has been listed last (and therefore the longest under debate) for nearly three years, except for a short period when it went to the President.   This reflects the long tussle involved.

The four major hindrances were the extended negotiations with the offshore petroleum industry on the free carry issue; the fact that President Zuma returned the Bill approved unsigned insisting that it be considered by all nine provinces; issues surrounding what the Minister has defined as “strategic minerals”; the thorny question of mineral beneficiation and the completion of the mining charter, to which the MPRDA refers but remains not incorporated.

Next process

Many more issues have still to be debated, whilst the basic parameters will have to come to a head on the parliamentary “rules of the game” regarding the passage of the legislation itself.    Meanwhile, NCOP hearings on the Bill have been scheduled for the last two weeks of June 2017.

Throughout, the “elephant in the room” for the mining industry has remained the Charter itself which Minister Zwane has stated will be “the most revolutionary Charter ever produced.”

Possible slow down

Meanwhile on the MPRDA, Opposition members will no doubt study closely the Rules of Parliament which state, as was the case with the FICA Bill, that if a Bill is returned unsigned then only the issues for which the Bill was returned may be altered and then only once.

However, unlike the FICA Bill which was returned on the basis of one issue, that of unwarranted searches the MPRDA Bill was returned on the basis of lack of consultation with the provinces.

To amplify, if the President only returned the Bill on the basis that the NCOP and National House of Traditional Leaders had not been consulted, it may be a contested issue as to whether the Bill will be challenged under these Rules. This is a legal issue.

The Legal Resources Centre is quoted as being interested in such a challenge.

Looking ahead

For years, it has been the view of many that both industries that each should have its own “MPRDA”, especially in the light of the fact that both have their own specific and very different Charters.

Whilst crude oil, subsequently refined to petroleum and gas, are certainly natural resources now owned by the State, theoretically the only resources that are ‘mineral’ are those which have a crystalline molecular structure and are “mined”.     This would naturally exclude extracted crude oil and gas.

Two is not one

Consequently, both industries, which fall under two government departments and which are distinctively different from one another, have historically been under one piece of legislation governing all geological resources.

This difference between the two industries is expressed in many ways.   The petroleum industry is centred around its refineries, very much technical industries with ‘upstream’ components in importation and exploration and ‘downstream’ interests  involving distribution, retailing and property interests. Their product is very directly linked to the cost of doing business and the cost of living.

Meanwhile, the mining industry is essentially involved in extraction with massive labour factors, high capital costs, sophisticated export involvements and beneficiation.  Its product is closely linked to the survival of industry in general and is directly linked to GDP.

Legislatively, therefore, one garment certainly does not fit all  –  despite each industry having its own charter.  Inevitably separate legislation will have to be developed but such changes are seen as being down down the road for the moment.

Damaging delays 

Whatever route the Bill now takes in Parliament, any challenge to its progress will be particularly frustrating for investors if there are more delays.    Those issues mainly arise in the mining sector where far more is at stake and consequently rating agencies are flagging Minister Zwane’s actions.  The gas exploration industry is clearly tired of waiting.

The results of three days of parliamentary hearings on the Bill, which have included some side issues such as Shell SA on the future of shale gas and any demands from the House of Traditional Leaders, should prove interesting.

The major issue remains as to what is government policy is on the whole particularly regarding labour  as distinct from just Cabinet ambitions for BEE participation percentages.

Next stages

Most attention will now fall upon the complementary non-legislative document, the Mining Charter, despite the unclear parliamentary situation.   Following the public hearings, the NCOP Select Committee will summate these meetings and the relevant departments will respond over the following days.

Possibly, at some stage, Minister Zwane will address Parliament on the issue to clarify the situation of government’s view and relevant comment on the Bill will also no doubt arise from media briefings by the Ministry on both subjects. For the moment, much of the issue will be dictated by events outside of Parliament.

Previous articles on category subject
MPRDA Bill returned to National House of Leaders – ParlyReportSA
MPRDA Bill to be amended urgently – ParlyReportSA
MPRDA Bill brings changes in BEE and exploration rights – ParlyReportSA
Mineral and Petroleum Resources Bill halted perhaps – ParlyReportSA

Posted in BEE, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Labour, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Border Management Authority around the corner

SARS role at border posts being clarified ….

In adopting the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs agreed with a wording that at all future one-stop border posts, managed and administered by the envisaged agency and reporting to Department of Home Affairs (DHA), were to “facilitate” the collection of customs revenue and fines by SARS staff present.

However, on voting at the time of the meeting, Opposition members would not join in on the adoption of the Bill until the word “facilitate” was more clearly defined and the matter of how SARS would collect and staff a border post was resolved.

Haniff Hoosen, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Economic Development said that whilst they supported the Bill in general and its intentions, they also supported the view of National Treasury that the SARS value chain could not be put at risk until Treasury was satisfied on all points regarding their ability to collect duty on goods and how.

Keeping track

Most customs duty on goods arriving at border controls had already been paid in advance, parliamentarians were told; only 10% being physically collected at SA borders when goods were cleared.

However, with revenue targets very tight under current circumstances both SARS and Treasury have been adamant that it must be a SARS employee who collects any funds at border controls and the same to ensure that advance funds have indeed been paid into the SARS system.

The Bill, which enables the formation of the border authority itself, originally stated that it allowed for the “transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

Long road

It was the broad nature of transferring the responsibility customs of collection from SARS to the agency that caused Treasury to block any further progress of the Bill through Parliament, much to the frustration of past Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba.   It has been two years since the Bill was first published for comment.

DHA have maintained throughout that their objective is to gain tighter control on immigration and improve trading and movement of goods internationally but Treasury has constantly insisted that customs monies and payments fall under their aegis. The relationships between custom duty paid on goods before arrival at a border to Reserve Bank and that which must be paid in passage, or from a bonded warehouse was not a typical DHA task, they said.

Breakthrough

It was eventually agreed by DHA that SARS officials must be taken aboard into the proposed structure and any duties or fines would go direct to SARS and not via the new agency to be created or DHA.

This was considered a major concession on the part of DHA in the light of their 5-year plan to create “one stop” border posts with common warehouses shared by any two countries at control points and run by one single agency. More efficient immigration and better policing at borders with improving passage of goods was their stated aim.

Already one pilot “one stop border post”, or OSBP, has been established by DHA at the main Mozambique border post by mixing SAPS, DHA and SARS functions, as previously reported.

To enable the current Bill, an MOU has been established with SAPS has allowed for the agency to run policing of SA borders in the future but Treasury subsequently baulked at the idea of a similar MOU with SARS regarding collection of customs dues and the ability to levy fines.
Bill adopted

At the last meeting of the relevant committee, Chairperson of the PC Committee on Home Affairs, Lemias Mashile (ANC) noted that in adopting the Bill by majority vote and not by total consensus, this meant the issue could be raised again in the National Council of Provinces when the Bill went for consensus by the NCOP.

Objectives

The Agency’s objectives stated in the Bill include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”

The Agency would also be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee, it was said.

Mozambique border

As far as the OSBP established at the Mozambique border was concerned, an original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries. Consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.

Parliament was told at the time that the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, both bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years but these had to be paid before the goods entered the market or were exported, MPs were told. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods.

State warehouses on the other hand, SARS said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared, seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

Slow process

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised. SARS said there were many ramifications at international law but added two discussions with Zimbabwe for the same idea had now taken place. It was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as lessons had been learnt with the Mozambican experience.

On evasion of and tax, SARS said in answer to a question that losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently it was difficult to provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid, as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified based on what had been seized.

The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern and through Botswana.

In general, it now seems that Home Affairs is to adopt an overall principle of what was referred to as having one set of common warehouses for one-stop declaration, search, VAT payment and vehicle movement with a SARS presence involving one common process for both countries subject to a final wording on the SARS issue before the Bill is submitted for signature.

Previous articles on category subject
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Mozambique One Stop Border Post almost there – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Home Page Slider, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Security,police,defence, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Carbon tax offsets on the way

Tax offsets plan almost ready for Parliament

sent to clients 12 Aug     Only a little reminding is needed that 29 July 2016 was the deadline for comments to carbontax1Treasury on the forthcoming carbon tax offsets plan which Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has promised will come into effect 1 April 2017 with some saying it might even be as early as 1 Jan 2017.

It was in 2014 that National Treasury published the first carbon tax discussion paper for public comment. It was agreed the that such a tax would be phased in over a period of time, the first phase running up to 2020. The marginal rate was the envisaged at R120 per tonne of CO2 and during phase-one, a basic percentage based threshold of 60% will apply for tax offsets below which tax is not payable in order to assist with transition into the new scheme.

SARS as usual

Everything has been based on South Africa’s commitment to the Copenhagen agreement signed in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025 – below the “business as usual” scenario.   The motivation provided for the tax remains as “so the cost of climate change an be reflected in the price of goods and services”.

sanedi carbon capIt was agreed that the tax would be administered by SARS.    Since that date, whilst the pro and cons of such a tax caused heated debate in some circles as to whether an introduction of a price mechanism could influence consumer and producer behaviour, the inclusion of Eskom in the tax net left many feeling somewhat helpless due to the utility’s enormity.

Eskom maybe dictates

OUTA complained that “Eskom’s various electricity tariff increases of almost three times the rate of consumer price inflation over the past eight years has become a tax of its own on society.”

They added that the electricity increase impact had resulted in fact to a reduction in electricity and energy as a result and this, which coupled with reduced production and consumption, had inadvertently caused a reduction of greenhouses gases having already taken place, OUTA said.   Of course, this remains totally unproven.

Neither Cabinet nor Treasury/SARS have replied to OUTA’s call to note “unintended consequences”.  No Treasury official it appears has felt that the Copenhagen Agreement can be dis-respected and have presumably felt that OUTA’s platform that a drop in national growth, due to global events and construction problems, has had little to do with the actual design of an overall process to cut carbon emissions over the next period of fifty years or so. The argument continues.

Quantifiable is the word

Now the first phase of the tax offsets are being set in concrete with Treasury having called for comment on theemissions final formula for the first phase of tax proposals, proposing, as before in the draft, that companies can reduce their liability for carbon tax by up to 5% or 10% of their total greenhouse gas emissions, depending on their sector, by investing in qualifying projects that result in quantifiable greenhouse-gas reductions.

Treasury says that the qualifying investments and offsets are likely to be in sectors such as agriculture, public transport, forestry or waste management and the accompanying documents note…“The proposal to use carbon offsets in conjunction with the carbon tax has been widely supported by stakeholders as a cost-effective measure to incentivise GHG emission reductions.”

How not to pay tax….offsets

“Carbon offsets involve specific projects or activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester emissions, and are developed and evaluated under specific methodologies and standards, which enable the issuance of carbon credits”, SARS concludes.

It is worth noting that tax legislation usually comes in the form of a “money” Bill which Parliament can debate butgreen scorpion not amend. Should the debate raise issues, then Parliament can address Treasury who will, according to their dictates, reconsider and change if they alone see fit.  

The general feeling seemed to be from hearings was that this event had to happen in line with other established economies, although OUTA has remained strong on its views that Eskom as a major player in the energy mix is distorting the situation.

The Treasury website has all the details of rules on which tax regulations will be based.
Previous articles on category subject
Treasury’s plan for carbon tax – ParlyReportSA
Carbon offsets paper still open – ParlyReportSA
Carbon Tax under attack from Eskom, Sasol, EIUG – ParlyReportSA
Treasury sticks to its guns on carbon tax – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Enviro,Water, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

MPRDA Bill returned to National House of Leaders

Some sort of movement on MPRDA at last……..

sent to clients 18 March…..In a parliamentary document recently published it is shown that the Mineral and Petroleumcoal mining Resources Development Amendment (MPRDA) Bill has been sent on a token trip through the National House of Traditional Leaders for comment in thirty days and then to be returned to the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources.

This is probably for some temporary major changes to be made to the Bill after debate until such time as two new Bills, one for the mining industry and one for the oil and gas industry, are drafted in time to come.     No doubt this movement was initiated as the result of the recent meeting between President Zuma and business leaders.

The extraordinary affair of the MPRDA has been going on since the first draft of the Bill was published for comment in December 2012 regulating extensively the exploitation of minerals and resources and the legal movement and transfer of resource rights.    Both industries have their own and very different BEE charters and the single Bill deals with both and many empowerment factors.

Core issues


Two issues
of note were that in the new Bill as originally proposed the Minister was to form a new “entity” which will “promote onshore and offshore exploration for and production of petroleum” and which will also “receive, store, maintain, interpret, add value to, evaluate, disseminate or deal in all geological or geophysical information” relating to petroleum and gas exploration matters.

Secondly, sections 80 and 84 of the anchor Act were to be amended to provide for State participation in any successful minerals and gas/oil development exercises carried out by the private sector, the Bill providing for a State right to free carried interest in all such exploration and production rights.
Specific details regarding the extent of the “free carry” were to be published in a government gazette, a figure of 20%susan shabangu being bandied about at the time.   “We are on the path of changing the mining and petroleum industry in South Africa, whether you like it or not,” said Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu earlier in 2014.

Strong views

Accompanied by a public outcry and strongly worded objections from private industry, foreign companies and other institutions, the Bill reached Parliament virtually unchanged.    Again, brought up before the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources in public hearings, were strong objections from Opposition MPs and institutionalised industry, neither of whom minced their words, describing the Bill, in one case, as a “self-destruction tool of South Africa’s investment climate.”

Nevertheless, the ANC Alliance continued on their course and the Bill was hammered through in a rush at the end of the parliamentary term, the ANC summonsing through its whip sufficient numbers.

In the background, as the Bill went through Parliament, was the fact that the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Energy were only just completing their split apart. Crossed wires were the order of the day.

Nothing happened

Since that date the Bill has sat in limbo; a new Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi Ngoako Ramatlhodiagreeing shortly after with the with mining companies and the Chamber of Mines that the best and fastest way forward to bring certainty to the mining and oil drilling industry would be to pass the Bill subject to amendments based on a new approach to the mining beneficiation issue.

Secondly, the matter of state “free carry” could be dropped.

At the time it was guessed that at least a year and a half would be the delay if two replacement Bills were to be drafted, separating mineral resources from oil and gas in the light of the fact that both have separate and very different BEE charters. The quicker alternative to bring some certainty was that temporary amendments to the existing Bill should be made.

Despite this, the Bill has just stuck right there, in the President’s office, until recently, now moving back togas exploration sea Parliament because, as is suspected, business leaders in their recent discussions with President Zuma must have drawn his attention to the continuing lack of lack of certainty in both industries because of unknown legislative changes about to occur and an apparent inability by Cabinet to give clear policy leads.

So where are we?

So as far as the MPRDA Bill is concerned, there is movement in the goods sidings but whether any train is about to start on a journey can only be known when a meeting is scheduled by the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources. Yet another minister is the train driver.

Previous articles on category subject

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Overall energy strategy still not there

Feature article………….

DOE energy strategy in need of lead 

From closing parliamentary meeting….sent clients dec 15….   South Africa’s energy strategy problem is as much about connection as it is about the integration of supply resources, said Dr WolseyDr Wolsey Barnard Barnard, acting DG of the Department of Energy (DOE), when briefing the parliamentary select committee on DOE’s annual performance before Parliament closed in 2015

Of all the problems facing South Africa on the energy front, probably the most critical is the lack of engineering resources facing South Africa at municipal and local level, negatively affecting economic development and consumer supply, he told parliamentarians.

He particularly referred in his address to the fact that the main problem being encountered in the energy supply domain was the quality of proposals submitted by municipalities for supply development in their areas.     In many cases, he said, the entities involved totally lacked the technical skills and capacity to execute and manage projects and there was also, in many cases, a lack of accountability with reports not being signed off correctly and in some cases technical issues not resolved before the project started.

Doing the simple things first

Despite all the queries from Opposition members on major issues such as fuel regulation matters; nuclear development and the tendering processes; the independent power producer situation with clean energy connection problems and issues surrounding strategic fuel stocks; again and again (DOE) emphasised that nothing was possible until South Africa developed its skills in the area of energy (electricity) connections.

electricity townshipsThe quality of delivery in this area was “extremely poor”, Dr Barnard said, inferring that without satisfactory delivery of energy the burning issues of supply became somewhat academic. Localised development at the “small end” of the energy chain had to be developed, he said. This lack of skills was exacerbated by the “slow delivery of projects by municipalities and by Eskom in particular”, he said.

Eskom  in areas not covered by local government.

Dr Barnard said that there was a lack of accountability on reports provided; poor expenditure by most municipalities evident from the amount of times roll overs were called for and high vacancy rates in municipalities. Consequently, he said, the overall Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP) was producing slow delivery of electrification projects requested of both local government and Eskom against the targets shown to MPs.

In probably the last meeting of the present Parliament before its recess, DOE spoke more frankly than has been heard for some time on the subject of its short, medium and long term energy solutions, including a few answers on the problems faced.

Frank answers

DOE explained it had six programmes focus which were outlined as the various areas of nuclear energy; energy efficiency programmes; solar, wind and hydro energy supply; petroleum and fuel energy issues, regulations and development electrification with its supply and demand issues.

DOE specifically mentioned that the Inga Treaty on hydro-power had come into force in the light of theinga fact that conditions to ratify the long term agreement between SA and DRC were satisfied and commercial regulations could begin in order to procure power. This would change the future of energy of solutions. This was a long terms issue but targets for the year on negotiations had been met.

Opposition members were particularly angry that a debate could not take place of nuclear issues and whether South Africa was to procure reactors or not. It was suggested by the Chair that maybe the outcome of COP21 might have given more clarity but MPs maintained that to make a decision DOE, as well as the Cabinet, “must know the numbers involved”.

DOE maintained silence on the issue saying as before that enumerating bid details would destroy the process. It was assumed by the committee at that stage that the then Minister of Finance must be grappling with the issue but MPs wanted an explanation to back up President Zuma’s State of the Nation address on nuclear issues, complaining that nobody in Parliament had seen sight of Energy Minister Joemat-Pettersson nor heard a thing on the issue.

Full team minus nuclear

Present from DOE, in addition to Dr Wolsey Barnard, Deputy DG and Projects and Programmes were Ms Yvonne Chetty, Chief Financial Officer; DG Maqubela, DG of Petroleum Regulations and DG Lloyd Ganta, Governance and Compliance.

On solar energy, DOE said some 92 contracts had been signed in terms of the IPP programmes. Forty of them were now operating producing some 2.2 megawatts of energy at a “cheap rate” when on line and solar germanythe grid being supplied but it became more expensive when not being taken up. Dr Barnard explained that South Africa was not like Germany which was connected to a larger EU “mega” grid in Europe where it both received and supplied electricity.

SA’s system, he said was rather a “one-way supplier”, solar energy being made available only when needed by the grid. But as SA grew economically, things would change.

He commented that the new solar energy station in Upington had not yet been completed but shortly it would not only be supplying energy “when the sun was shining” but, importantly, be able to stored energy for later use. This made sense with the purpose of the IPP programme, he said.

The big failure

On the issue of the PetroSA impairment of R14.5bn, subject raising again the temperature in the meeting, DG Lloyd Ganta of DOE explained that the PetroSA impairment had happened mainly for two reasons.
The first was that PetroSA had made a loss in Ghana to the value of R2.7bn, primarily, he said, due to the fluctuations in the price of oil, the price falling from $110 per barrel to $50 at the time shortly after their entry and at the point of the end of the first quarter.

Project IkwheziThe second reason was due to losses at Project Ikwhezi (offsea to Mossgas) where volumes of gas extracted were far lower than expectation, the venture having started in 2011. At the end of the 2014/5 financial year, only 10% of the expected gas had been realised. When parliamentarians asked what the new direction was therefore to be, the answer received was that engineers were looking at the possibility of fracking at sea to increase the disappointing inputs.

The financial reports from Ms Chetty of DOE confirmed the numbers in financial terms making up the loss,

Dependent on oil price

Acting DG Tseliso Maqubela then stressed that nothing could not change the fact that South Africa was an oil importing country but the country was attempting to follow the direction of and promises made on cleaner fuels and it had been decided to continue with the East coast extraction.

In terms of the NDP, DOE said that South Africa clearly needed another refinery for liquid fuels but

refinery

engen durban refinery

whilst an estimated figure of R53bn had been attached to the issue some time ago for the financing of such, the issue of upgrading existing plant had not been resolved with stakeholders.

Oil companies, he commented, had said that if the government were not to pay for this in part, especially in the light of fuel specification requirements also required to meet cleaner fuel targets set by international agreements signed by SA, the motorist would have to foot the bill as the country could not import clean fuel as such to meet all demand.

More refining capacity

“A balance has to be found with industry and a deal struck”, he said, the problem being that the motorist was at the end of the fuel chain and such a call would affect the economy. He said that possibly the refinery issue could be approached in a phased manner and at perhaps a lower cost.

In the meanwhile, cleaner fuels were a reality and already some traders had applied to the DoE for licenses to construct import facilities, one in Durban and one in Cape Town.

If traders were to bring in large quantities of clean fuels, he said, this would represent a complete change in the petroleum sector and an energy task team, made up of government and main stakeholders was at present putting together a full report on cleaner fuels and a strategy for the future.

LPG a problem

lpgThe Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) situation was different, he said, since in this area there was not enough production and import storage facilities and it was a question of short supply therefore to the market – a problem especially in winter.

Both propane and butane, the main constituents of LPG are used in the refining process in the far more complicated process of straight petroleum fuel production and with the economies of scale that have to apply to South Africa, this resulted in a high market gate price and insufficient quantities, he said.

Unfortunately, LPG was becoming very much the energy source of preference with householders,especially poorer homes, hence the pressure on government to find some way of introducing LPG on an a far larger scale and at a lesser price. The impression was given that LPG “got the short straw” in terms of production output numbers.

Nuclear non-starter

Again when the subject came round to nuclear matters, no officials present from DOE were in a position to answer MPs questions on why eight nuclear power stations should be necessary, if nuclear was indeed a necessity at all, and whether the affordability had been looked at properly – the chairman again suggesting that the matter be put off until reappearance of the Minister of Energy in the New Year.

Gas on back-burner, as usual

Finally, on questions of gas and fracking, DG Tseliso Maqubela said that government “was takingmozambique pipeline a conservative approach” inasmuch that any pipeline from Northern Mozambique to South Africa was not under consideration but that plans were afoot to expand existing pipelines from that territory in the South.

On fracking, as most knew he said, a strategic environmental assessment had been commissioned, basic regulations published and also the question of waterless fracking was a possibility, now being investigated.
Previous articles on category subject
MPs attack DPE on energy communications – ParlyReportSA
Eskom goes to the brink with energy – ParlyReportSA
South Africa at energy crossroads: DOE speaks out – ParlyReport
Gas undoubtedly on energy back burner – ParlyReportSA
SA aware of over-dependence on Middle East, says DOE – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

SA’s COP21 climate change paper debated

sent to clients 13 October….

All on climate change but not cost…

cop21 logoAlmost always ignored at the recent parliamentary public hearings on the SA COP21 climate change submission was the issue of finances, probably the essential ingredient that should have been debated as part of South Africa’s position in the forthcoming  conference in Paris on intended targets for reduction of greenhouse gases.

After two full days of submissions, with no time for committee member questions from MPs in the light of time restraints and the re-presentation of papers in Xhosa, an impression was gained that there remained the same sharp divide between the providers of statistics that clearly showed what a future world would look like if South Africa and other countries continued on existing paths and those who called for reality in the light of the fact that South Africa is a coal-based economy and will remain so well into the mid-century.

State developmental call only

Surprisingly costs to the tax payer and to business and industry featured little in the proposed department of environmental affairs (DEA) COP22 submission, other than by emphasing the point by investing sooner was a more advantageous position to be in than later, when the cost of “catch up” would be far greater.

The submission is to be South Africa’s call on implementing their portion of 2015 COP agreement from its Green Climate Fund and which reserve fund is supposed to be capable of mobilising $100bn from 2020 onwards.  Also to be resolved is the issue of the immediate sources of funds and to capitalize into reality for use what already exists in the fund.

Maverick viewpoint

The one person who did approach the issue of funds but who fell into the category of a “denialist”Phillip lloyd according to environmental observers, was Prof. Phillip Lloyd of the Energy Institute, Cape Peninsular Institute of Technology, a known detractor of climate change. 

He claimed that in fact climate change issues represented a massive multi-billion industry with a potential turnover of R1,174bn. It was staffed by thousands of NGOs around the world, he said, employees of sensitive international companies, whole government departments and enormous amount of diverted funds that could be put to better use.

He claimed that the current warnings on climate change and “doomsday scenarios” were largely based on unsubstantiated statistics, or at the very least, exaggerated claims. Such funds should be diverted to development, not wasted on pointless conferences, he stated, and technologies that could not hope to meet the demands of growing populations.

Fact or fiction

He showed a graph of rainfall records for England and Wales going back to AD 1750 which indicated a mere 4% rise over the entire period and whilst indeed CO2 emissions , according to him, had increased alarmingly affecting health this was in no way connected to climate change because temperatures had only increased 1%, part of a long process of global warming that went back to the globe’s emergence from the last Ice Age.

Similarly, he noted, rising sea levels had been going on for “thousands of years” but the current level of annual sea rise was dropping in terms of archaeological and geological studies conducted, again over the centuries. He said that the current spend globally on the whole so-called climate change awareness programmes and infrastructure spend amounted to some R15,500 per person globally and “sooner or later this hype had to come to an end”, he concluded.

The chairperson thanked Prof. Lloyd with a sense of amusement.

Developmental help

gridsAnother issue raised regularly regarding the DEA COP 21 submission hearings was the call for capacity building to handle new clean energy resources, a major problem in many developing countries. Financial and technology mechanisms had to be shared and adapted wherever possible, particularly in countries where forced change would stunt economic growth, the paper before them stated.

Most submissions focused on the fact that the two issues had to be in harmony but few could expand how this could be achieved successfully, some submissions just taking the “green at all costs” approach. Nevertheless, in broad terms, all submission except the one acknowledged the urgent need for some sort of structured approach to the agreed need for climate change programmes.

Most submissions also made reference to the activities of Eskom or Sasol in one way or another, referring to such in one case as “the primary polluters in the South African context”.  Subjects brought up varied from fracking to small enterprise farming and renewable energy supplies to carbon capture.

In the one corner….

Greenpeace maintained that listing nuclear energy as “low-carbon” option was disingenuous in that Greenpeacenuclear life cycle in itself was carbon intensive and should not be referred as an energy component for clean renewable alternatives and preferably removed altogether.  

Other predictable submissions came from such bodies as Earthlife Africa and the World Wildlife Fund, who specifically named fossil fuels as the major problem, one of the few times vehicle fuel emissions were mentioned in the two days.

COSATU complained that the use of nuclear energy did not create jobs and would not help the economy in any way but did raise the issue that the effect of global warming was a fact and would be ”devastating as far as employment was concerned”.

The legal view

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) stated that South Africa’s negotiating position at COP 21 should succeed in giving effect to section 24 of the Constitution regarding the right to health but they complained that DEA’s long term plans, which included accommodating coal-fired power generation and its highly water-intensive processes had no hope of meeting constitutional requirements unless urgent changes were made.

They pointed out that aside from Medupi and Kusile, the Minister of Energy’s plan to procure an additionalmedupi 2500MW of coal fired power included seven further coal-fired plants yet to be built and which were in the planning stage, mostly in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Both these provinces, CER said, were highly water stressed areas and had zones already declared as health priority areas due to poor air quality.

Even the right of access to drinking water was threatened in these areas, they pointed out, both issues, air pollution and lack of drinking water in their view representing potential breaches of constitutional privilege.

Top down problems

A number of interesting submissions were made on the problem of local government implementation of climate change mitigation plans.    A particularly important submission came from SA Local Government Association (SALGA), who pointed to the fact that whilst climate change was a national issue and called for a national approach, this did not change the fact that implementation and controls, regulations and planning mostly had to be done by cities and municipalities.

SALGA said there seemed to be no cohesion either in funding or in policy between national government and to some extent provincial government, but certainly not with local governmental authorities. They called for an “enabling framework” that could be adopted in key localised areas and so that “the voice of local government could be heard” by those paying for it.

Methane and fracking

A scientific paper known as the Howarth Report, emanating from Cornell University, was presented by a private individual, Marilyn Lilley, which focused on hydraulic fracturing and the greenhouse gas footprint left by this fracking drilling, the Howarth Report specifically focusing of fracking in the United States of America. Ms Lilley related these findings in her presentation with that of the 200,000sq km area released for fracking ventures in the Karoo.

A quick read of the Howarth Report indicates that in the US during the life cycle of an average shale-gas well 3.6 to 7.9% of the total production of the well is emitted as methane gas. This is at least 30% more and twice the harmful effect as gas extracted from conventional oil wells, the report says.

Also there is a 1.4% leakage of methane during storage and transmission of shale gas. This is the far the most dangerous component of greenhouse gases, the average black smoke emitted from a factory containing on the whole mainly harmless soot, the report concludes. Ms Lilley said that methane was “enemy number one”, adding again that methane had a far greater effect on global warming than any amount of coal fired energy generation.

Methane spouts

Fracking_GraphicShe also said that during the hydraulic fracturing stage of a drilling, which would go to at least 3-4kms vertically to a shale layer and then for approximately 2kms horizontally along the seam, fracturing then takes place with explosives and some 20 million litres of water with silica sand and chemicals pumped in to cause the methane gas to return to the surface with the then toxic water.

She said well pads are usually built 3-4 kms apart in a grid formation and each pad can have up to 30 wells, each being capable of being fracked a number times and each frack taking about 20 million litres of water.

She concluded that fracking whilst be making an unpleasant major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, the process rather contributed more to global warming which was the actual root problem. She called for fracking and consequent methane gas emissions to be accounted for in South Africa’s COP 21 submission as a subject in itself and for a moratorium to be declared on fracking exploration and subsequent gas extraction.

She also pointed to the fact that disposing of the then toxic water extracted, in some cases needing irradiation, would become an immense and unmanageable waste problem and the light of the distances involved in the South African scenario.

Agri-plans and consequent food processing development

farmingA considerable number of submissions focused on the importance of establishing viable small farming units and a completely self-sustaining mini-agricultural food industry in specially located zones. The proposers suggested suitable cropping of vegetables and staple foods in order preserve the food chain for poorer communities under climate change conditions, the zones themselves contributing to healthier emissions with normal synthesis.

Carbon capture investigation

The South African National Energy Institute (SANEDI), reporting to the Central Energy Fund, gave a report- back on their work in the South Eastern Cape where a pilot drilling project, carried out on-shore for reasons of cost, was exploring the possibility of large-scale carbon storage at sea.    Prof. AD sanedi carbon capSurridge described carbon emissions capture as part of the “weaning off process necessary” whilst the country moved slowly from a fossil fuel based economy to a renewables/nuclear mix.

This pilot storage plant should be running by 2016, SANEDI said, and “commercial rollout possibilities concluded by 2020”.

Marathon run

In closing, Jackson Mthembu, chairperson of the Environmental Affairs Parliamentary Committee, said that “in South Africa, we are known for differing with respect”. This had been the purpose of the hearings, he pointed out.

He concluded by saying that climate change, as an issue, cut across all facets of government and consequently the parliamentary submissions collective summation would be shared across the desks of all Ministries involved.

Other articles in this category or as background

Environmental pace hots up – ParlyReportSA

Tougher rules ahead with new evironmental Bill – ParlyReport

Electric cars part of climate change response – ParlyReport

Posted in Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Green Paper on rail transport published

sent to clients 12 October…..

National rail policy mapped out…..

metrorailA Green Paper on South Africa’s National Rail Policy has been published for comment naming the country’s challenges in rail transportation, recommending policy direction and containing broad proposals for the way forward to develop the current rail network.

Gazetted recently, the Green Paper represents work commenced in 2010 and says the document “Seeks to revitalise the local railway industry by means of strategic policy interventions”.   Not only is freight rail included in the proposals but long-distance rail passenger and localised commuter services.

Road dominates at a cost

Minister Peters said in a media statement at the time that railways in South Africa had operated for almost more than a century without a proper overarching policy framework to guide development.   “The railway line and its railway stations have played a pivotal role in the day-to-day lives of communities, especially those in the rural areas, but as far as freight is concerned, 89% of freight is still transported by road and the future of commuter rail conducted on an ad hoc basis”.

roadsThe emphasis of road transport is costing the country millions of rands annually in road maintenance, money that could have been well spent on developing freight rail, she said.

The process

Cabinet last month approved the release of the Green Paper for public consultation. When all is finished, a final White Paper on National Rail Policy will be released to guide and direct development of infrastructure and develop more modern commuter systems. A National Rail Act will be the final result of the White Paper.

These interventions, according to Minister Peters, will reposition both passenger and freight rail for inherent competitiveness by “exploiting rail’s genetic technologies to increase axle load, speed, and train length.“

Lining things up

railway lineWider-gauge technologies are on the cards.   The government has said it is converting 20 000km of track to standard gauge from the narrower Cape gauge. This would bring the network in line with an African Union resolution on the subject and at the same time would boost capacity of goods carried, with longer trains and a reduction in transportation costs.

With both passenger and freight rail falling within its scope, part of the envisaged national transport policy includes involvement by the department of transport (DOT) in the local government sphere to create capabilities to move more passengers by rail with infrastructure, more rail line and technical assistance.

Creating local commuter rail

Secondly, once the localised capacity is in place, DOT says it will be able to appropriate subsidies for urban commuter rail, the management of the mini-systems then being devolved to municipalities themselves.

The Green Paper talks of investment and funding, private sector participation, inter-connection with the sub-Continent, skills planning, investment strategies and the start of a regulatory system.     Part of the master plan at operations level would include a branch line strategy with the private sector involved to improve connection between cities with towns and industrial areas.

Other articles in this category or as background

Transnet improves on road to rail switch – ParlyReportSA

South Africa remains without rail plan – ParlyReportSA

Minister comments on taxi and rail plans – ParlyReportSA

PRASA gets its rail commuter plan started – ParlyReport

Posted in Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Expropriation Bill phrases could be re-drafted

Most countries have forms of expropriation…..

As a result of three full days of public hearings on the new Expropriation Bill,  Deputy Minister of croninPublic Works, Jeremy Cronin, confirmed that in a number of aspects, notably on issues of arbitration and definitions of “the public interest”, the Bill as tabled needed re-drafting considering certain constitutional aspects.

He was adamant that a Bill of this nature was needed, a fact not disputed by many in submissions, but the wording of the Bill at present certainly seems to have raised the spectre of a constitutional challenge if the hearings were anything to go by unless considerable alterations take place.

Expropriation definition will trump all

Whether the Expropriation Bill is land reform in disguise or a genuine attempt by the Ministry of Public Works to unlock mechanisms that are preventing infrastructure development became the kernel of discussion and debate. This was after some twenty five submissions by various parties across the entire business, political analyst and land ownership spectrum.

Clearly opinion is still divided but the motives for dissension and the subject of the submissions put to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works were as varied as the arguments put forward by the department itself in the need for such a Bill.

Eskom used as reason

The worry behind any disagreements with the wording of the new Bill appeared in question time. Would the Department of Public Works (DAPW) seriously put forward an ANC Alliance proposal for “land grabbing” under the simple guise of a platform of argument such as that Eskom needed to resolve land issues to extend electricity grid installations or that the N2 was held up in the Eastern Cape?

Anything else in the “public interest” including “property”, as yet undefined, would be unconstitutional, said many of the submissions, whether agreeing to the basic need to alter the anchor Act by amendment or not because the ‘willing buyer, willing seller” principle was clearly “out of the window”.

How close is Constitution on “expropriation”

Minister Cronin The Bill tabled clearly states that it “seeks to align the Expropriation Act, 1975, with the Constitution and to provide a common framework to guide the processes and procedures for expropriation of property by organs of state.”    This, the Bill says, would be in the “public interest” but again and again the query arose as to what the “public interest” might be.

Throughout the entire round of submissions, the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, was at pains to express the benign in nature of the proposed Bill insofar as plans to expropriate land. The intention of the Bill was merely to speed up processes that hindered development in the “public interest”, he argued.

He admitted that in some cases this might include “land development” but denied that the Bill was in fact a pre-cursor to the proposed Land Reform Bill and the recently tabled Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, where the issue of land in the one case and “property” in the other case arose.

CCCI attacks whole raft of Bills

ccci logoSuspicions in respect of this were strongly expressed by Ms Janine Myburgh of the Cape Chamber of Commerce (CCCI) who claimed to represent also the views of SA Chamber of Commerce, in completely rejecting the Bill as a flagrant attempt to undermine the Constitution.   She thus brought CCCI to a great degree into contradiction with Business Unity SA (BUSA) and even Agric-SA, both of whom agreed that such a Bill was in order but that the wording need much attention on the issues under debate.

In some respects the CCCI presentation, as lodged with Parliament and subsequently circulated, differed in basic content from the speech actually made, which was particularly vehement in its rejection of the Bill and which, Ms Myburgh said, flew in the face of the Constitution. She linked the Expropriation Bill with the Promotion and Protection of Investment and other land reform legislation from the Minister of Rural and Land Development together.

Coming round the corners is more…

CCCI was convinced that the Expropriation Bill was the first of more legislation to come that could damage any investment in the South African economy; was an attempt to provide precedent for expropriation at “any price”; and should be the subject of a constitutional challenge. The need for the Bill in totality was rejected.

The chairperson, Ben Martins, complained that the CCCI submission brought “nothing to the party” with no alternative suggestions, “nor an attempt to understand the processes involved”. They should only discuss the Bill before them. The UDM stated that they doubted whether Ms Myburgh, an attorney, “had even read the Bill” and Minister Cronin, said that the input by CCCI was an embarrassment and a waste of the committee’s time. There would be a Bill tabled eventually, that was a fact that seemed to be accepted, but to contribute nothing was a pointless exercise, he said.

He expressed his view that Ms Myburgh should not even be allowed to respond to these different criticisms since her organisation either had not read or did not understand the Bill. He asked how the Bill could be “unconstitutional” when it directly enforced the “public interest”. What was being discussed, he said, was to define this with wordings necessary to resolve issues, achieve this, and move forward.

Minister Cronin said that CCCI had adopted an alarmist attitude, which he was continually at pains to oppose, and added that a wide majority of stakeholders who had intervened in the public hearing thus far, including Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Agriculture South Africa (Agri-SA) and the Banking Association South Africa (BASA) amongst others, had raised useful contributions which had to be considered.

Minister Cronin said that he hoped that the media present would have the intelligence to understand the processes envisaged by the amended Bill and the suggestions that had so far come forward were part of a process that all countries had.  He condemned the attitude of CCCI towards an Act that had been in place but needed revision because of circumstances.

Institute of Race Relations

anthea jeffriesRight from the start of hearings, the first being from the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) represented by Dr Anthea Jeffrey, the point was that in the case of poorer folk the whole question of court litigation costs was not only a dubious issue but the time frame for lodging an appeal had to be extended from 60 to 120 days.

When asked why SAIRR should become involved in land issues, Dr Jeffrey replied that it was just a question of the unconstitutionality of the issues and for many years SAIRR had been involved in discrimination against black land ownership.

She said that under the present Act the validity of any expropriation could be challenged, whereas under the new proposals it could not; SAIRR was deeply concerned that all types of property could be expropriated; property that was expropriated “in the public interest” should be better defined and she asked that the new Bill should trump all other Bills.

She complained that Bill in no way assumed responsibility for loss of livelihood; loss of property and the unintended consequences of taking land. She reminded MPs that over 8.6m black people owned their own homes in South Africa.

Dr Jeffrey was asked what she meant by making the remark that “a number of interested organisations would be taking the current wording to the Constitutional Court if the wording should stand”. Would SAIRR really appoint silk and go to the Court, they asked.  She replied succinctly, “It totally depends what you put in the Bill”.

Earlier, Ms Vuyokazi Ngcobozi, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, reminded the Portfolio Committee that it needed to be mindful of Section 25(2b) of the Constitution which states that if parties did not agree on compensation, they should approach a court.

People could not afford to take the route of going to court, she said, and arbitration was expensive. However, this was a right which is provided for in the Constitution. Alternative approaches had to be considered, she said. There was, throughout the hearings, much debate on which courts should be used.

Eskom goes up front as reason

eskom logoEskom in its presentation said that it was currently experiencing significant delays in acquiring servitudes for the construction and installation of its infrastructure and this was largely due to an “ineffective expropriation process”. They quoted one essential transmission line to the Western Cape which had been held up for six years and one even more critical line to the Vaal Triangle industrial area held up for four years.

When asked why the land had to be bought, Eskom said in many cases this was the only route to acquire rights. At this point, the Deputy Minister responded that there was absolutely nothing against the acquisition of servitudes in the public interest but the issue remained the market value for such rights, whether ownership or servitudes, and the Bill itself therefore remained a Bill about expropriation of such rights.

SA Institute of Valuers

This point was made by Saul du Toit of the SA Institute of Valuers (SAIV) in urging both the committee and the department not to leave the notion of value as openly definable and to align it with market value for purposes of fairness and constitutionality and the rights of a property owner.

He found himself answering provocative questions from EFF members who stated the land was not the property of the current owners in the first case so the question of rights did not apply.

Mr du Toit urged members of the EFF to obtain a copy of “Grundrisse” by Karl Marx, in which Marx explained how “labour” actually allocates a certain value to land.  He again confirmed that it was highly doubtful whether some magistrate’s courts, which had to take a fair share of the load of expropriation cases away from costly High Court actions, had the experience but not necessarily the competence, to deal with expropriation matters.

One submission, from a valuator, Mr Peter Meakin, suggested that that all land, as in Hong Kong, should become state land and leased back to owners, thus completely changing the structure of taxes and rates into rent and leasing costs, making expropriation a much easier matter, providing just compensation for property only as the main issue. The impracticality of this suggestion led to very little debate.

Agric-SA- “process must totally protect”

agri-saMs Annelise Crosby, parliamentary representative for Agri-SA, said they “supported orderly land as a prerequisite for rural stability and inclusive rural development.” She stated that “expropriation should only be used as a last resort where negotiations had failed”.

Agri-SA had been totally opposed to the original 2008 Bill on the basis that it restricted access to the courts and was not in line with Section 25, 33 and 165 of the Constitution and she said that government “should be applauded for the extensive and inclusive consultation process which it undertook on the 2015 Bill before the showed significant improvements”.

However, expropriation without compensation, she said was traumatic, causing financial loss, emotional stress and suffering.  Agri-SA proposed that the full 100% of compensation offered be paid to the owner on the date which the state took responsibility of the property. Under no circumstances should an expropriation lead to insolvency on the part of the land owner because the compensation was not sufficient to settle the loan secured by the mortgage bond and settlement paid in time.

Claimants, she said, should as far as possible be placed in the same position as was the case before the expropriation. The definitions of “expropriating authority” and “public interest” were broad and left a lot of room for uncertainty.

Also Ms Crosby said, “due regard must be given to the owner’s right to privacy and these should therefore be resolved in the wording, submitted by Agric-SA, before the Bill was finalised if it was to be acceptable.”

Banking Assoc: Expropriation should only be for land

basaThe Banking Association of SA (BASA) went a stage further, stating the whole preamble to the Bill and the Constitution should be altered to state that the Bill be restricted to land, water and related reform as opposed to “other types of property”.

BASA noted since the instigation of the original Act the word “property” had become a debatable issue at law. This was agreed later by Minister Cronin and not even the Constitutional Court had been able to rule on this.  BASA pointed out that the Bill had to be aligned to the Constitution which called for “just and equitable” access to land which was missing in the proposed Bill, thus there being no adequate safeguard against abuse of the power to expropriate.

BASA stated that the new Bill left out the previous expression of “consequential loss” contained in the original Act and any replacement or amendment should be aligned to relevant international norms and standards. In terms of global regulatory requirements, they said, lenders are required to make use of market values against which mortgage loans are made and they could see “no valid reason” for leaving out the relevant clauses as contained in the original Act.

“Expropriation is a drastic measure which places an inordinately heavy burden on the shoulders of particular individuals. The full extent of their consequential loss must be taken into account, not disregarded”, BASA emphasised. They disagreed with the concept that any property that had been “taken without the consent of the expropriated entity or person” should not be taken into account.

BASA set out a full alternative set of wordings and concluded by urging government use caution and act in strict compliance with the Constitution, especially in cases when a heavy burden on the expropriated person became apparent. They concluded with the comment that South Africa could ill afford to have an Expropriation Bill that works against investment growth and the creation of jobs. This was not conducive to a satisfactory international business environment, they said.

Taking bits out of land destroys values

The South African Institute of Valuers (SAIV) further said that land assets should be considered as holistic units and should not be divided up by any expropriation process since the units thus divided, they argued, become non-viable and lost their use or value. The expropriation process, they argued, had to be related to market value for purposes of fairness and constitutionality.

Discussion again centered on what courts should be used, SAIV sharing its experience with the Gautrain expropriation where some 1,400 cases of expropriation were satisfactorily concluded by arbitration before the necessity of going to the courts arose.

SAIV called for privacy on compensation agreements, for if the amounts paid, the Institute said, were to become public, landowners could rely on data from previous cases and play these off against each other as well as against the state.

Minister Cronin’s consistent assurances throughout the hearings that the amended Bill was benign on the issue of expropriation and mainly for state utilities to complete infrastructure projects was challenged after a submission on the third day by Prof. Ruth Hall for Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

She said the amending Expropriation Bill highlighted “the necessity to bring expropriation laws and theirRuth hall compensation components into line with the Constitution in order to remove the ‘veto power’ of landowners in relation to land reform and to ensure consistency in expropriations undertaken by the different arms of government.”

Prof. Hall said that the proposals, for the first time, properly phrased historical factors into a Bill, particularly regarding the shaping of compensation in order to address the apartheid legacy and the necessity for redress. She said a state “advisory panel on expropriation” could provide all citizens with a cost free framework for negotiations and arbitration in order to address the costly and “intimidating” court system.

Minister Cronin hastened to assure Prof. Hall that this legislation, like much of South Africa’s current legislation, had the main purpose of addressing improprieties of the past and was designed to continue the process of redress.

sapoaThe South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), represented by Adv. Gerrit Grobler, felt that in broad terms the Bill conformed to international standards and the department was to be commended. “It is workable, practical and constitutionally sound but there were a few outstanding matters needed to be attended to and that the Bill could not go forward as it was.”

Originally only the High Court where the property was situated could determine compensation for all instances of expropriation, Adv. Grobler said, but in 1975 the Expropriation Act provisions allowed for compensation to be decided by a magistrate but subsequently were deleted from the Act because compensation mostly fell outside the experience of magistrates.  This had to be cleared up and decided upon, he said.

He advised that the 60 day notice of expropriation was too short and felt it would not meet constitutional muster.   It could not be expected that property could be valued and a claim for compensation prepared in such short time. He suggested 6 months in the light of court rolls being overloaded.

Mr M Ndlozi (EFF) said that SAPOA represented land and property of capitalists, some of whom were the main beneficiaries of the policies of a criminal government. SAPOA needed to have a conversation around the criminal acquisition of land, he said.

Adv. Grobler, when replying, said if a property owner who had paid full value for the property, whether in 1960 or 1975 and the property is taken away, then the owner would lose the market value which he or she had paid for the property. That was a fact. If the land was acquired for nothing, then this would be taken into consideration.

gerrit groblerAdv Grobler said he was not a politician but a lawyer and therefore could not discuss any member’s personal ideologies. He followed only the Constitution which outlined the principle that compensation for expropriation be paid.

However, SAPOA continued with the proposition that High Courts, or preferably arbitration beforehand, had to take place first in terms of the Constitution but the argument remained, as had been stated from the start of the hearings, that these costs were too high and the period in which a defence could be prepared before expropriation took place was too short. This had to be reconciled, he said.

Adv Grobler again repeated that the Bill was a good piece of legislation which needed a few technical adjustments. Magistrate courts were specifically good in matters relating to criminal law but not to expropriation. However, he stressed that the proposals would “not serve the bottom end of the market”.

Deputy Minister Cronin thanked the presenters for providing clarity on the jurisdictional areas of the High Court and the Minister notably remarked that it made sense to begin assessing things from a market value point of view.

On the Eskom matter, he said the problem with Eskom was that the entity was pursuing the “willing buyer, willing seller” approach and a couple of landowners held out to drive up prices. Therefore such a Bill as tabled was important to tackle land acquisition although it had to be in line with the Constitution.   Adv. Grobler was thanked by the chairperson, Ben Martins, for his thoughtful observations.

cosatu2The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) submission descended into an argument between their need for an answer why land restitution had “failed so far” and the fact that the land was “stolen” in the first place. A response was made by FF+ member, F Groenewald, that most of the land referred to had been stolen from the Khoi-San by such historical parties as King Shaka in the first place.

Chairperson, Ben Martins, called for order and asked both parties to continue their debate “at another timeBenedict Martins in a different place” since the issues were irrelevant to the meeting.

However, Mathew Parks, parliamentary coordinator at COSATU, submitted the view that government should never compensate theft and emphasised that arbitration should be able to take place prior to referring to a court at low cost. The present process was, moreover, described as long, costly and intimidating. This could be sorted out without changing the Bill.

He suggested as a solution the development of an advisory panel on expropriation which would provide actors in a dispute with a comprehensive framework, enabling the development of fruitful negotiations.

He described the recent criticisms directed against the Bill in the media as attacks lacking any foundation. He urged members of the committee to vote in favour of the Expropriation Bill as it stood.

In conclusion, Deputy Minister Cronin said that Department of Works and his Ministry Department had much benefited from the general support and advice contained in the majority of the submissions. It was a Bill which was now perceived as a nearly completed and was now a working document which any government needed to bring matters in line with international practice.

He added that the Freedom Charter “did not contain any reference to the possibility of nationalising any land” and this was a “red herring”.

Other articles in this category or as background
Expropriation Bill has now to be faced – ParlyReportSA
Zuma goes for traditional support with expropriation – ParlyReportSA
Expropriation of land stays constitutional – ParlyReportSA
Amended Expropriation Bill returns – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Land,Agriculture, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, public works, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Nuclear partner details awaited

DoE gives update on SA nuclear plan….

russian nuclearThe Department of Energy (DoE) says it is the sole procurer in any nuclear programme and that “vendor parades” had been conducted with eights countries, the results to be announced before the end of 2015. To give cost details, they said, would “undermine the bidding process”.

The situation regarding South Africa’s current intended nuclear energy programme was explained during a parliamentary meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Energy, DoE confirming that a stage had been reached where nuclear vendors had been approached and DoE staff were being trained in Russia and China.

Eskom not involved

Neither DoE, nor the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who was also present would givetina-joematt cost estimates nor speak to the subject of financing other than the fact the minister admitted that the idea of Eskom being involved in the building programme in the style of Medupi and Kusile was a non-starter.

At the same time Minister Joemat-Pettersson announced that a new Bill, the Energy Regulator Amendment Bill, was to be tabled that would give Eskom the right to appeal against tariffs set by the National Energy Regulator (NERSA). This followed upon the news that Eskom would be given powers to procure, which must lead to the assumption, said opposition MPs later, that Eskom will recoup costs of financing through electricity tariffs.

The Minister said the renewable IPP programme involving the private sector had included multinationals and had been “hailed as a success” and the deal that would be struck with nuclear vendors would be on best price in terms of the end price for the consumer. Any bidding would be conducted in the “style of the IPP process”, which included support of the process of black procurement and skills training.

Contribution to grid still “theoretical”

modern nuclear 2Deputy Director, Nuclear, DoE, Zizamele Mbambo, explained to opposition members that whilst government had in principle decided to include nuclear energy in the energy mix for the future, DoE itself was still only at the stage of establishing all costs involved to the point of actual connection of a theorised figure of nearly 10GW to the national grid. To disclose costs at this stage would undermine the bidding process, he said.

The main purpose of the costing exercise still remained the final cost the consumer, he said, in terms of the NDP Plan 2030, a phased decision-making approach over a period of assessment having been endorsed by the Cabinet in 2012. The whole exercise of deciding what the costs would be was therefore relevant to how much coal sourced power would contribute to the baseload of the energy mix by 2030.

Deal or no deal

Zizamele Mbambo confirmed that in 2013, DoE had been designated as the sole procurer of the nuclearsmall nuclear reactor build programme and “vendor parades” had been conducted with Russia, China, France, China, USA, South Korea, Japan and Canada. The strategic partner to conduct the next stage, the New Build Programme itself, would be announced before the end of 2015, Mbambo said, by which time costs would have been established and treasury consulted.

At this stage no deal had been struck, he confirmed.

As distinct from the actual vendors per se, and any deals, Mbambo said that international agreements had been struck with interested counties on the exchange of nuclear knowledge, training and procurement generally.

DoE trainees already in China

chinese sa flags“Fifty trainees already employed in South Africa’s nuclear industry had already gone to China for ‘phase one’ training with openings for a further 250 to follow”, he said, noting that the Russian Federation had offered five masters degrees in nuclear technology.

The New Build nuclear programme was at present based on providing eventually 10GW of power to the grid but DoE confirmed that the indirect effect on the economy from “low cost, reliable baseload electricity is logically positive but difficult to assess”.

Zizamele Mbambo showed a graph of the possible integration of energy from coal, nuclear, hydro (imported), gas and renewables over a period, stating that nuclear was clean, reliable and would ensure security of supply with “dispatchable power.”

Opposition Members complained that the process seemed likely to make the price of electricity unaffordable to the poor and have a major impact on the cost of doing business in South Africa.

Nuclear vs. coal

Mbambo was at pains to explain that in the long term, the cost of nuclear energy was considerably lessgrids than coal and this was the reason that, for future generations, South Africa had to embark on a course that not only lead to cleaner but cheaper energy.

As a final issue, DDG Mbambo touched upon the question of approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and explained that any relationship with this UN body was on the basis of a peer review.

This covered nineteen issues from nuclear safety management to radioactive waste disposal and was not an audit, he explained, South Africa already having been an experienced nation in nuclear matters from medical isotopes to nuclear weapons. It was pointed out to members that that IAEA merely carried out reviews and made input.

Up to speed or not

IAEAIt was during the response to the budget vote speech on the subject of the IAEA, that Opposition Shadow Energy Minister, Gordon Mackay said that the agency had found South Africa deficient in more than 40% of its assessment criteria.   In response, DDG Mbambo did not refer to the current state of the country’s nuclear readiness at any point but confirmed there was a great need for training and this was now the emphasis.

He said the relationship with the IAEA was in three phases covering purchasing, construction and operations and although it was thirty years since South Africa had a nuclear building programme at Koeberg, the current contribution to nuclear technology was recognised.    The programme now was to create a younger generation of nuclear experts, the main issue being to build technology capacity and train trainers in the state nuclear sector.

Reactor numbers

Mbambo concluded his presentation by stating that DoE was in discussion with treasury specifically on this issue of funding training, Minister Joemat-Pettersson adding that some six to eight reactors were planned  but a this was very early, the weight that “price” would carry in determining a strategic partner was not decided.

Other articles in this category or as background
Nuclear goes ahead: maybe “strategic partner” – ParlyReportSA
National nuclear control centre now in place – ParlyReportSA
Energy plan assumptions on nuclear build out in New Year – ParlyReport

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

SARS understaffed to deal with transfer pricing

Davis report on transfer pricing confirms …

NB: This article updated after two recent meetings of committee on transfer pricing. Report with clients.

JudgeDennisDavisSouth African Revenue Service (SARS) was completely lacking in sufficient staff to deal effectively with transfer pricing in order to spot illegal transactions, said Judge Dennis Davis in his capacity as chairperson of the Tax Review Committee when addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources.

He also pointed out that SARS, in any case, was also not provided with sufficient information by declaring companies, particularly multinationals as legislation stood at present, to further probe cross-border transactions to determine whether the movements involved the illicit transfer of profits from high-tax to low-tax regimes.

He told parliamentarians that whilst about three years ago SARS had conducted a very specific and targeted investigation, and had raised in one financial year alone some R1.1bn, this only illustrated the far larger amount of “haemorrhaging” that was taking place.

Not transfers but manipulation…

The Judge had to explain to MPs time and time again that transfer pricing in itself was not illegal, only any manipulative tax behaviour usually involving non-declaration or undervaluation.

Judge Dennis Davis referred to the recent highly publicised case involving HSBC where some R23bn directly involved the SA fiscus “and which was under review by SARS”.  He also drew attention to the fact that as a result of disclosures during the Marikana inquiry, Lonmin appeared to have profited by some R280m in saved taxes by transfers.

railfreight“Fictitious transfer pricing declarations were the problem”, he said, where multinationals managed to declare profits which appeared lower in countries with higher tax rates and higher in countries with lower tax rates. This occurred where the culprits identified transfers of intangibles for less than full value; showed over capitalisation of tax group companies and declared contractual arrangements with low risk tax environments.

Digging deeper

The Davis Tax Committee had recommended to National Treasury Department that the current unit in SARS, dedicated to base erosion and profit shifting be strengthened. At present this constituted only twenty personnel. “Building up this team would enable SARS to dig deeper into companies’ affairs”, he said.

Billy JoubertBilly Joubert, Tax Director, Deloittes, pointed to the fact that transfer pricing was in fact a “neutral” instrument in terms of its intention to promote industrialisation because its purpose was in fact to achieve arm’s length profits across the value chain.

Transfer pricing rules based on international best practice provided investors with certainty and it also protected the tax base of the relevant country, he said.   It was therefore an essential part of any tax system, providing taxpayers did not manipulate prices by shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions. He condemned the practice.

Arm’s length reporting in question

Joubert said South Africa was an observer and an active contributor to the OECD and their transfer pricing guidelines was a resultant consensus document. It was critical for SA to align with the tax policies adopted by their trading partners where they could, endorse “the arm’s length principle” adopting the guidelines in their own domestic environment and follow global standards.

He said that SARS had achieved the collection of approximately R5bn over the last three years from some 30 audits and adjustments of R20bn.

He concluded that SARS’s new rules “were now more closely aligned to the global standard and possibly ahead of many other countries”, noting, however, there was a lack of certainty in terms of outdated practice notes; limited guidance on implementation of “secondary adjustment mechanisms”; and also a lack of interaction with double tax agreements which were closely allied to the process.

Back to understaffing…

Prof Johann Hattingh of UCT pointed to the fact that the Davis Tax Committee recommended full compulsory OECD style taxpayer information disclosure and there “was more than enough in the legislative armoury of SARS to effectively combat intercompany mispricing or tax abusive behaviour”.

However, he also pointed to the fact that SARS was understaffed and simply outnumbered by input of declarations to effectively implement transfer pricing legislation across a broad spectrum.

Prof Hattingh explained that insofar as tax interpretation was concerned it was a complex and ultimately subjective evaluation because of the difficulty in identifying intangibles and services which were transferred or provided and the arm’s length price at which they were valued. Even the whole definition of an “arms length transaction” was subject to difficult legal, accounting and tax interpretation, he pointed out.

OECD the genisis

He said all BRICS countries, except Brazil, took the OECD guidelines as a starting point, Brazil using fixed international commodity prices which provided more certainty but which conflicted in many cases with double tax agreements, since double tax could arise in one of the countries involved in transfers.

EFF member Freddie Shivambu said that in terms of SARS, staffing with skilled personnel was not the only problem as far as could see but there was a lack of clarity on the way forward.  Judge Davis replied that there were indeed criminal elements involved, such as illegal siphoning of money and under-declaration of assets, but his committee had established “empirical evidence” that the amount lost to the fiscus was not always as high as it was reported to be.

But the way forward, he re-empahsised, involved updating wording of legislation; the ability to follow up on “arms length transactions” and more staff to do this. His Committee’s report was with the President.

ANC says transfer pricing is manipulation

Some ANC members pointed to the fact that some multinationals were making “massive profits and not contributing to the country’s agenda to address poverty, inequality and unemployment and transformation” and that transfer pricing should be banned. Others called for it to be declared “illegal”.

They were corrected again by Judge Davis who explained that transfer pricing was a legitimate necessary process for companies doing legitimate transactions and as such it could not and would not be “banned” or illegalised.

D Macpherson DAMr D Macpherson (DA) joined the debate to say that the issue of illicit transfer pricing should not become a political matter but that it was a national concern for all, pointing to the fact that whilst transfer pricing was one issue, the country was losing some R6bn through other forms of corruption.

It was all part of the same problem, he said, and the country had to take a stand against all illicit activities that deliberately robbed the government of revenue.

Not just mining worldwide

Meanwhile Judge Davis agreed with ANC members that “additional revenue was needed to redress historical injustices” but the World Bank had reported that South Africa had addressed this challenge better than most countries, including Brazil. There was no evidence to suggest that transfer pricing affected the mining industry notably.

He was joined by Billy Joubert of Deloittes who stated that such a transaction should not be criminalised because they were cross-border transactions, which was essentially transfer pricing, and re-emphasised that they were “neutral” until  assessed and found to be illicit or not.

National Union of Mineworkers said transfer prices should in principle match either what the seller would charge an independent, arm’s length customer, or what the buyer would pay an independent, arm’s length supplier. He claimed that transfer pricing defeated the objectives of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

“All it meant”, said the NUM spokesperson, “was retrenchment of employees; low and unequal salaries: inadequate investment on skills development; poor implementation of social and labour plans and less investment on health and safety standards, resulting in injuries and fatalities.”

brigette radebeBridgette Radebe of South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA) said her records showed that “out of 151 countries, South Africa lost, on average, the twelfth highest amount of money through illicit financial outflows”. She disagreed with Joubert of Deloittes on the ‘neutrality’ of transfer pricing and the effects and that the statement that the mining industry was a “small player” was incorrect.

She said the mining industry contributed 17% of GDP and 38% of exports, plus 19% of private investment with R78 billion spent in wages and salaries. “These figures were totally eroded and made misleading by transfer pricing”, she said.  She provided the parliamentarians with a series of figures explaining how transfer pricing in the mining industry took place and claimed that manipulation was often the practice.

SAMDA suggested the immediate alignment of the mining charter with the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice with transfer pricing and to address the issue of penalties contained in the charter for non-compliance.  Much agreement from ANC members took place.

Multinationals under attack

One ANC member stated that “the bulk of South Africa’s mineral resources were in the hands of foreign nationals and it was good that SAMDA and organised labour came together and addressed the issue of transfer pricing in terms of the South Africa’s economy.”

A department of mineral resources (DMR) staff member attending was called upon by the chair to respond, who stated that all the issues raised would be discussed by his department and in the light of success with penalties under the Mine and Safety Act, increased penalties for breeches in declarations might be considered.

Cooperation possible

DMR and SARS had been working together, the spokesperson said, on the whole issue of transfer pricing, a memorandum of understanding between the two departments having been established.

SAMDA said that some multinational companies often wished to “manipulate prices to such an extent that there was no income for beneficiation or share distribution and consequently loans on shares could not be repaid.”

Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/sars-to-be-given-right-to-search-without-warrant/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/securitypolicedefence-2/customs-duty-bill-cuts-inland-ports/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/promotion-and-protection-of-investment-bill-opens-major-row/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/financial-sector-regulation-bill-heralds-twin-peaks/

Posted in Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Fuel price controlled by seasonal US supply

US refinery shut downs affect fuel price…..

US refineryThe current spike in the price of petrol is due of a number of international issues  compounding together but the primary cause is that at this time of year in the United States, a number of major US refineries close down for maintenance in order to prepare for the US summer surge in fuel sales.

This was said by Dr Wolsey Barnard, acting DG of the department of energy (DoE), when he introduced a briefing to the portfolio committee on energy on its strategy for the coming year.

In actual fact, the meeting had been called to debate the promised “5-point energy plan” from the cabinet’s “war room” which did not eventualise, the minister of energy also being absent for the presentation as scheduled. It appeared that the DoE presentation had been hastily put together.

“Price swingers” make perfect storm

Dr Wolsey BarnardDr Barnard said that it could be expected that the price of fuel would be extremely volatile in the coming months due in main “geo-political events” affecting the price of oil, local pricing issues of fuel products and possibly even sea lane interruptions. Price would always be based on import parity and current events in Mexico, Venezuela and the Middle East would always be “price swingers”, he said.

On electricity matters, his speciality, he avoided any reference to past lack of investment in infrastructure, but said that he called for caution in the media, by government officials and the committee on the use of the two expressions “blackouts” and “load shedding”.

Same old story

“Over the next two years”, he said, “until sufficient infrastructure was in place, there would have to be planned maintenance in South Africa” and referred to the situation in the US as far as maintenance of refinery plant was concerned. He said that also “unexpected isolated problems” could also arise with ageing generation installations, during which planned “load shedding” would have to take place.

He said he could not imagine there being a “blackout”.

Opposition members complained that the whole electricity crisis could be solved if some companies would cease importing raw minerals, using South African electricity at discounted prices well below the general consuming manufacturing industry paid, and re-exporting smelted aluminium back to the same customer. They accused DoE of trying to “normalise what was a totally abnormal position for a country to be in.”

Billiton back in contention

One MP said, “Industry was in some cases just using cheap South African electricity to make a profit”. Suchaluminium smelter practices went against South Africa’s own beneficiation programme, he said, in the light of the raw material being imported and the finished product re-exported. “It would be cheaper to shut down company and pay the fines”, the DA opposition member added, naming BH Billiton as the offender in his view.

Dr Barnard said DoE could not discuss Eskom’s special pricing agreements which were outside DoE’s control  and “which were a thing of the past and a matter which we seem to be stuck with for the moment.”

High solar installation costs

Dr Barnard also said that DoE had established that the department had to be “cautious on the implementation of solar energy plan” as a substitute energy resource in poorer, rural areas and even some of the lower income municipal areas.  DoE, he said, “had to find a different funding model”, since the cost of installation and maintenance were beyond the purse of most low income groups.

In general, he promised more financial oversight on DoE state owned enterprises and better communications.   There were plenty of good news stories, he said, but South Africa was hypnotising itself into a position of “bad news” on so many issues, including energy matters. He refused to discuss any matters regarding PetroSA, saying this was not the correct forum nor was it on the agenda.

Still out there checking

On petroleum and products regulation, the DG of that department, Tseliso Maquebela, said that non-compliance in the sale of products still remained a major issue. “We have detected a few cases of fraudulent fuel mixes”, he said, “but we plan to double up on inspectors in the coming months, especially in the rural areas, putting pressure on those who exploit the consumer.” The objective, he said was reach a target of a 90% crackdown on such cases with enforcement notices.

Maquebela added that on BEE factors, 40% of licence applications with that had 50% BEE compliance was now the target.

Competition would be good

On local fuel pricing regulations, Maquebela said “he would dearly like to move towards a more open and competitive pricing policy introducing more competition and less regulations.”

fuel tanker engenOn complaints that the new fuel pipeline between Gauteng and Durban was still not in full production after much waiting, Maquebela said the pipeline was operating well but it was taking longer than expected to bring about the complicated issue of pumping through so many different types of fuel down through the same pipeline. “But we are experts at it and it will happen”, he said.

Fracking hits the paper work

On gas, particularly fracking, DoE said that the regulations “were going to take some time in view of all the stakeholder issues”.

On clean energy and “renewables” from IPP sources, DoE stated that the “REIPP” was still “on track” but an announcement was awaited from the minister who presumably was consulting with other cabinet portfolios regarding implementation of the fourth round of applications from independent producers.

Opposition totally unimpressed

In conclusion, DA member and shadow minister of energy, Gordon McKay, said that the DoEgordon mackay DA presentation was the most “underwhelming” he had ever listened to on energy.   Even the ANC chair, Fikile Majola, sided with the opposition and said that DoE  “can do better than this.”

He asked how Parliament could possibly exercise oversight with this paucity of information.   DoE representatives looked uncomfortable during most of the presentations and under questioning it was quite clear that communications between cabinet and the DoE were poor.

When asked by members who the new director general of the department of energy would be and why was the minister taking so long to make any announcement on this, Dr Wolsey Barnard, as acting DG, evaded the question by answering that “all would be answered in good time”.

Other articles in this category or as background
Energy gets war room status – ParlyReportSA
Medupi is key to short term energy crisis – ParlyReportSA
Integrated energy plan (IEP) around the corner – ParlyReportSAenergy legislation is lined up for two years – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Enviro,Water, Facebook and Twitter, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

MPRDA Bill to be amended urgently

Some form of compromise….

coal miningIn referring back to Parliament the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill (MPRDA) and acknowledging in his State of Nation Address (SONA) that in its present form it could be damaging to South Africa’s investment climate, President Zuma and his cabinet have introduced more certainty to both the mining and oil and gas industries.

At least a year and a half delay was a guess if the suggestion that two replacement Bills were to be drafted separating mineral resources from oil and gas in the light of the fact that both have separate BEE charters.

Certainty needed

However, mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has agreed with mining companies and also the point put forward by Chamber of Mines that the best and fastest way forward to bring certainty to theRoughnecks wrestle pipe on a True Company oil drilling rig outside Watford industry would be to pass the Bill subject to amendments based on a new approach to the mining beneficiation issue and the matter of state “free carry” in any successful gas exploration.

Originally, on an issue raised both in submissions and by opposition parties and, even a couple of ANC MPs, the presidency has also agreed to doubts expressed whether, once signed, the MPRD Act after amendment would pass constitutional muster on the basis of the amending Bill’s passage through Parliament and the process adopted.

Section 79(1) of the Constitution empowers the President to return a Bill to Parliament for reconsideration if reservations about the constitutionality of the Bill prevail.

Mining land

Subsequently pointed out as a further reason for the Bill not beingtrad leaders signed, raised in a presidency statment issued by spokeperson Mac Maharaj, was a concern of cabinet that the Bill had to be processed through the Council of Traditional Leaders.

Parliament passed the Bill all in a rush at the end of March 2014 after much lobbying by ANC whips and despite warnings and constitutional challenges from many parties.  Nearly a year has passed since sending the proposals off for presidential assent.

The subject of the regulatory environment has not even been touched upon or has come up in the debate at this stage.

During the parliamentary recess both the Chamber of Mines and others have complained of sustained uncertainty in their industries and in the investment world.

Two issues emerged almost immediately when the President announced he was delaying his signature. The first issue was a hefty warning from mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi who said “the implications for companies that did not meet BEE targets set out in the mining charter would be severe”, inferring that this might eventually affect the granting of mining licences. He raised, once again, the issue of employee shareholding.

“Developmental” metals pricing

Consequently, it still remains somewhat foggy what government policy was in instituting such clauses other than an overall ambition for the state to have more ownership of strategic resources in both industries and the drive by minister of trade and industry, Dr Rob Davies, to assist smaller manufacturing metals industries becoming more viable at the cost of larger industries, therefore creating more jobs, he said.

On the subject of BEE and the two different charters affected, all that has been said officially was a remark by minister Ramatlhodi “We have to satisfy ourselves that the Act meets our broader socio-economic development activities.”

The second issue to emerge after the announcement of the return of the MPRDA to Parliament was further mention by the department of energy of“Operation Phakisa”, the speed-up process as part of a co-ordination exercise with the oil and gas industry to reduce reliance on oil imports.

Fracking and renewables

On a separate issue, further statements by ministers with regard to fracking and speeding of delays in the IPP world with renewables has also emerged, overshadowed by the urgent need of an energy plan from the newly formed energy “war room”.

Whatever happens, both industries should be prepared for another round of public comment, hopefully in the first parliamentary period after the Budget…… minister of finance Nene notably mentioning nothing of nuclear interest in his budget speech.
Other articles in this category or as background
Energy War Room formed to meet crisis – Parly ReportSA
Mineral and Petroleum Resources Bill halted perhaps – ParlyReportSA
Medupi is the key to short term energy crisis – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Land,Agriculture, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Trade & Industry0 Comments

South Africa remains without rail plan

 Feature article….

Minister Peters fails on rail policy…

dipou Peters2In a written reply to Parliament on the whereabouts of the promised Green Paper on rail policy, transport minister Dipuo Peters told her questioners that such a document which has the intention of outlining South Africa’s rail policy was to be presented to cabinet in November. GCIS statements for cabinet meetings for November and the final cabinet statement in December 2014 made no reference to any such submission having been made – alternatively, the minister might have failed to have it put on the agenda. The country therefore went into Christmas recess once again without an established government policy on both freight and passenger rail transport matters, worrying both industrialists, investors and, not the least, built environment planners.

Just talking together

A draft Green Paper was first submitted to cabinet a year ago but cabinet instructed that more consultation on the proposals was necessary, particularly interchange between the transport and public enterprises departments. The portfolio committee on transport stated that policy on freight rail upgrading and infrastructure development was unclear, plans for commuter and long-distance passenger services confused and no clear picture had emerged on Transnet’s promised policy of structural re-organisation. Subsequent to this, the department set up a national rail policy steering committee to oversee the consultation process and introduce the required changes to policy. It has also divested itself of a number of non-core assets but no clear picture has emerged in statements on the promised policy of giving direction on the privatisation of branch lines.

Since time began…

According to the minister at the time, cabinet’s concerns had also involved the adoption of a standard gauge, private sector participation and economic regulation.  Subsequently, DoT indicated that standard gauge has been selected as the most suitable gauge for the South African rail network and as a result a final revised Green Paper was tabled before the steering committee in October 2014. Nothing has emerged. In the absence of any agreed policy, particularly to meet the proposed idea of rail freight re-assuming its dominant role over road transport in the light of the deteriorating national road picture, a number of developments have indeed taken place with regard to the purchase of diesel and electric train stock, signal systems upgrades and station re-building and passenger coach rolling stock manufacture. Nevertheless, no clear picture has emerged on the road ahead with regard to the freight/road picture, branch line privatisation, commencement dates for full long distance passenger services nor satisfactory plans and targets expressed on domestic commuter rail services.

All said before

Jeremy Cronin, when deputy transport minister, told Parliament in April 2011 that by establishing a local manufacturing base for the new rolling stock, benefits would ensue by creating a substantial number of local jobs. He added that as a result of the redevelopment of rail engineering capacity, skills that have been lost over decades of underinvestment in the local rail engineering industry would be recovered. The then deputy minister also said, “We are currently (2011) in the Green Paper phase with the primary objective of preparing the way for effective stake holder engagement. We are poised to reverse the decline in our critical rail sector that began in the mid-1970s and gathered pace in the late 1980’s.” In April 2015 therefore the country will be the fourth year of waiting for South Africa to outline its rail policy, “a system critically in decline” according to minister Cronin.

Recent update from Maties

A few months ago, a most important paper on rail transport, now in the in the hands of DoT, was published and out into the public domain by Dr Jan Havenga, director: centre for supply chain management, department of logistics, Stellenbosch University, who led a team of transport logistics experts to complete this erudite and informed report. The report is entitled “South Africa’s freight rail reform: a demand-driven perspective” and opens with a definition of government’s responsibilities in rail transport matters. “The role of the government is, primarily, to facilitate the development of a long-term logistics strategy that optimally equilibrates demand and supply through ‘anticipation’ of the market character.” “The definition of a national network of road and rail infrastructure and their intermodal connections will flow from this, presupposing neutrality across modes by taking full account of all relevant social, environmental, economic and land-use factors.” “This ensures that the mix of transport modes reflects their intrinsic efficiency, rather than government policies and regulations that favour one mode over another. The strategy is subsequently enabled by a clearly defined freight policy, a single funding regime for the national network and, lastly, the establishment of appropriate regulatory framework.”

Volume of freight critical

The report notes that “the American Trucking Association (2013) forecasts that intermodal rail will continue to be the fastest-growing freight mode in the next decade. Only the very busiest railway networks, which can exploit the density potential of volume growth, are likely to generate sufficiently high financial returns to attract substantial risk capital in long-term railway infrastructure.” “The Association of American Railroads as well in 2013 also highlights the impact of density on efficiency, revenue and, ultimately, the ability to reinvest.”

Lacking in market intelligence

Dr Havenga says, “The failure of South Africa’s freight railway to capture this market is attributable to a lack of policy direction regarding the role of the two modes (road and rail) in the surface freight transport industry and according to the Development Bank of Southern Africa, caused by the absence of sufficient market intelligence to inform policy.” He goes on to confirm that “one of the key requirements for an efficient national freight transport system is better national coordination based on market-driven approaches.”

Pressing need

“To avoid the ad hoc policy responses of the previous century, which led to sub-optimisation, increasing complexity and decreasing end-user quality, the pressing reform issue for South Africa, therefore, is agreement on the design of an optimal freight logistics network based on a market-driven long-term strategy that holistically addresses the country’s surface freight transport requirements.” Dr. Havenga’s final comment in the report, only a few weeks old, states that South Africa’s freight task is expected to treble over the next 30 years, with further concentration on the long-distance corridors. He points out that the country desperately needs a profit-driven market related core rail network to serve industry and manufacturing, as well as a developmental-driven branch line network to serve rural development. Other articles in this category or as background http://parlyreportsa.co.za/transport/minister-comments-taxis-e-tolls-road-rail/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za/finance-economic/prasa-gets-its-rail-commuter-plan-started/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/transnet-says-freight-rail-operations-coming-right/ http://parlyreportsa.co.za/uncategorized/rail-is-departments-main-focus-in-year-ahead/

Posted in cabinet, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Muscle may be added to LRA

Feature article….

BS000318LRA needs beefing up, says DA ….

A political confrontation is no doubt about to occur and possibly street unrest regarding the parliamentary notice now gazetted tabling a Bill proposing changes to the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

It also proposes empowering  labour courts to declare the cessation of a protected strike or to refer the protected strike for arbitration in the event of riot damage.

Public comment to Parliament was allowable until December 7 on the Labour Relations Amendment Bill PMB2-2014, which DA MP, Ian Ollis, intends introducing a private member’s bill.

Responsibility for violence

The opening wording of the gazetted notice stated that notice of an intention to “amend the Labour Relations Act (No. 6 of 1995) to make provision for trade unions to be accountable in the event of violence, destruction of property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike, and comments are requested.”

The background to the Bill notes that “statistics from recent protest action in the metal and engineering sector show that in the first two weeks of the strike, 246 cases of intimidation, 50 violent ‘incidents’ and 85 cases of vandalism were recorded.”

Views of Cosatu

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said, in response to DA statements issued as result of the gazette being published, “COSATU will campaign relentlessly, thorough the alliance, in Parliament, at the Constitutional court and in the streets, to ensure that such a law is defeated.”

By “alliance”, Craven is presumably referring to factors such as whether ANC MPs will join ranks and vote against the Bill at portfolio committee level when introduced.   This meeting will not occur until at least February and March 2015.

It is to be noted that as a private member’s Bill, this Bill is not tabled by the minister of labour, nor is associated in any way to any draft or proposal emanating from the department of labour.

How to strike properly

 The Bill, as proposed, provides for the accountability of trade unions in the event of violence, destruction to property and intimidation by union members during a protected strike.  The legislation also requires unions to educate workers regarding violence and on labour law procedures before strikes and by law unions are to provide marshals for crowd control who have been

ian ollisOllis, who is shadow minister for labour, says that his Bill also proposes that “courts would be empowered to stop a strike that is  properly trained for such and “to prevent criminals infiltrating union ranks”.excessively violent by forcing the parties into arbitration, to declare a violent strike as unprotected and to award damages against unions that have not implemented  such processes.

Bill not needed

The proposals also state that courts would be empowered to award damages against unions that have not implemented the law’s required staff education and crowd marshal training.

Cosatu flatly rejects the Bill. Says Craven, “Cosatu has consistently opposed violence, intimidation and damage to property during strikes and demonstrations, all of which are offences under existing laws and therefore require no new law to deal with them.”

The difficulty is holding unions to account for violence, a matter which is being attempted to be defined by Ollis, outsiders asking whether laws passed by Parliament are the answer or the problem.

There also appears to be two arguments, or camps of thought, on violence associated with strike action in South Africa.  Many commentators and a wealth of labour lawyers and have pronounced upon these arguments and no doubt they will emerge in Parliament in more detail should the Bill get to the point of being debated.

Two views

The points seem to be the extent to which community poverty and frustration extend into the situation, whether the answer to solve violence exists in the workplace and whether the ability of any law to criminalise contraventions of labour relations tenets can work and if this is the answer.

The kind of frustration that is evident become obvious, as media reported, when a union member exclaimed during the NUMSA metalworkers strike, “If we settle the strike and we get back to work we can save our company and we won’t lose our houses and our cars.   Why on earth would we go to court and start fighting again, risk everything, to get maybe a little bit of money compared to losing all our belongings?” he asked.  This point is raised by Ollis.

But damage to property is the least of the problems, says UCT’s humanities dean, Sakhela Buhlungu, in a speech in Cape Town recently. “The real thing is the loss of lives. With damages, in fact the beneficiaries, if this Bill goes through, will be the people who own property.   It is the poor people who will be caught in the crossfire because they are viewed as  scabbing. How do you compensate those people?  Do you say the unions must pay for lost lives?  You can’t quantify that”, she told her audience.

Poverty driven

Clearly the violence is well outside the arena of whether collective bargaining is working or not but the one view is that it is another manifestation of community frustration amongst those living below the breadline.

Buhlungu said to her audience, “Look at domestic violence; it is out of control.  Look at child rape; it is out of control.  Look at violence by the police against the public; it is out of control.  Violence is so pervasive that, in fact, it would be a surprise if a strike were not violent.”   Clearly, she said, the passing of laws will not resolve such issues.

On the same side of the coin also is the pragmatic view noted by Graeme Simpson, renowned labour writer of many years who in 1994, the year of independence, wrote, “The potential of the workplace as an agency for social change is severely under-utilised, and the narrowly conceived strategies to insulate industrial relations thus actively undermine the potential for relative peace (in the workplace).”

In the context of the violent strikes at that time (Checkers etc), Simpson said, “The vision of most employers has remained rather conservatively limited to futile attempts to insulate or protect the workplace from encroaching violence, rather than engaging in any way with the origins of the problem beyond the factory gates.”

Township stress

Simpson noted that research conducted then by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation had shown that community-based violence (whether political or criminal) and the trauma associated with victimisation and stress resulting from potential or indirect victimisation, had the effect of broadly polluting workplace relationships.

There is a vital need – with attendant advantages – for business and trade union leaders, said Simpson, to engage jointly in interactive planning to harness the potential of the working environment as a proactive arena of peaceful social change, whilst simultaneously addressing the concrete needs of the most victimised township communities in general.

In the meanwhile the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation has evolved a four-pronged approach, it says on its current website, for dealing with the impact of violence on industrial relations. These programmes include the idea that the workplace is a place where violence-related trauma can be treated and training must be given to support and counsel traumatised co-workers.

Bigger business role

Communication, says the Centre, to generate information and sensitivity to the shared problems of violence and their influence on industrial relations is much required and importantly all companies should engage in community development and upliftment involving violence monitoring and conflict resolution processes beyond the shop-floor.

Also the Centre sees as an imperative that there have to be more community development initiatives from all businesses with workforces where worker or community representatives are party to decisions on allocating resources for corporate social upliftment programmes.

The second camp of thought clearly see Marikana as a Rubicon that was crossed which has so totally changed the labour environment that labour courts must have more powers to administer their decisions and that it is the unions that must change. The Bill proposes changes by criminalising failure to adhere to such amendments to the Labour Relations Act or at least making perpetrators culpable. Enough is enough, is the thought pattern.

Said Ollis in a DA statement as the Bill was tabled in Parliament by the Speaker, “A law is needed to ensure that unions be held responsible for all conduct that could potentially cause foreseeable damage to property, result in injury or loss of life.”

“Members of the public and business owners should thus exercise their rights and hold unions accountable for damage to property resulting from strike action,” he concluded.

Round the corner from Parliament, JP Smith, who is responsible for safety and security on the Cape Town mayoral committee said angrily a week or so ago, when accounting for all the damage done by strikers was being accounted for, whether by union members, just frustrated poor people or Cape skollies, “It is about highlighting the individuals, prosecuting them, exposing them to the media. What we need is for actions to have consequences for individuals.”

President’s response

Meanwhile, when speaking in Parliament, President Zuma did indeed condemn the violence associated with the Numsa strike but he gave no indication that concern about violence would result in fundamental changes to policy or legislation, as proposed by Ollis.

“We have enough instruments in our labour relations machinery to resolve labour disputes,” said Zuma to the National Assembly.

According to Patrick Craven of Cosatu, the “draconian principle” of criminalizing unions by default ignores the fact that employers are also at fault and he sees the threat to award financial damages against a union as having the potential to bankrupt unions and force them to disband, “which is surely what the DA, and its friends in business, want”, he added.

Most discount this argument as an exaggeration although it might appeal to Craven’s own audience.

COSATU needs collective bargaining

Craven added that in Cosatu’s view by empowering courts to force employers and unions into arbitration where strikes are excessively violent, or declare such a strike unprotected “would give the state unparalleled power to undermine collective bargaining and the basic human right to withdraw one’s labour.”

The department of labour recently released its Annual Industrial Action Report and this makes for compelling reading, says Johan Botes, director at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, who no doubt will make submissions to Parliament on the subject of the new Bill.

“Most worrying,” notes Botes “is the fact that the percentage of unprotected strikes has increased from 2012 to 2013.   The report indicates that during 2012, 54% of strikes were protected whilst this number fell by 6% in 2013.”

“This may suggest a number of troublesome issues, including lack of regard for the law or the consequences of unlawful conduct, growing frustration and antipathy towards employers, or further support for the view that our collective bargaining processes and (SA labour) practices are in dire need of an overhaul.”

More jobs lost

Botes says it also worrisome that large groups of employees are being exposed to dismissal as result of their participation in unprotected industrial action whereas focus surely ought to be on how to save jobs and limit or prevent unnecessary dismissals.”

“The need for greater compliance with legal requirements before embarking on industrial action should be more emphasized, when considering the alarming reports of other unlawful activities connected with strikes, whether protected or unprotected, and which activities include assault, intimidation and causing damage to property,” he notes.

The ANC, as a party or alliance, has not made its views known at this stage on the Bill, nor any stance to be adopted by its party whips.
Ollis of the DA is convinced that Parliament must pass such an amendment to the LRA “where action could result in injury or loss of life”, thus ratcheting the parliamentary argument up a notch or two.

Fall back

Last word goes to the background of the Bill itself which states, “Though the Regulation of Gatherings Act 1993 the law imposes restrictions and prohibitions upon gatherings and demonstrations that cause “riot damage” to third parties, the current provisions within the legislation fail to address instances where damage caused to persons and property by strikers in the course of promoting the objects of the strike and which does not necessarily occur within the structures of a gathering or demonstration.”

Ollis says, “Indeed, harm caused by strikers often occurs underhandedly at strike-breakers’ homes and as strike participants move to and from strike locations – violence and damage to persons and property therefore occurring outside the formal strictures of a sanctioned strike or gathering, yet acting in furtherance of union-supported collective action.”

He concludes, “This Bill thus seeks to provide a statutory duty on trade unions to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to persons and property within the Act.”
Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/labour/labour-committee-turns-away-strikes/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/labour/labour-relations-act-changes-passed/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za/bee/rumblings-in-labour-circles-on-bee/

Posted in Facebook and Twitter, Labour, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Trade & Industry0 Comments

DTI gives warning on investment climate

High administered prices a threat…

42X90693In an apparent warning to the economic cluster, a deputy DG at department of trade and industry (DTI), Garth Strachan, warned that South Africa was reaching “a tipping point” where administered prices, either levied or taxed by the various state departments, were so high that it was making the cost of doing business in South Africa totally impractical.

 

There was neither an attractive climate for investors because of high state administered prices, he said, nor did it make any easier DTI’s developmental programme in support of the NDP and attracting investors.

In a frank presentation to the portfolio committee on trade and industry, he qualified DTI’s position during his candid commentary with the caveat that as far as the regulation of administered prices were concerned, such as electricity, port and rail freight charges, road transport costs and water tariffs, that these were not the core competencies of DTI although they were adversely affecting DTI’s current IPAP 6.

Undermining investment climate

He noted later in his talk that in the successive implementation of various IPAPs, including the current industrial plan, DTI had found that administered prices constituted a total impediment to economic development.   In fact, now in 2014, they were providing a “serious economic shock”, as he put it, to the viability and competitiveness of the manufacturing sector.

Garth Strachan commented that the addition of carbon tax could push South Africa to the ‘tipping point’, unless the proposals were with “carefully calibrated policy interventions.”

As far as electricity was concerned, it was DTI’s view that the actual problem lay in the funding structures of local government, especially where no allowance was made for infrastructure upgrading and maintenance. Water shutdowns were also an increasing problem, he said.

He told parliamentarians that in one instance a global investor had experienced 140 electricity and water shutdowns. He did not indicate over what period.

International comparisons

He said that on electricity tariffs, whereas in 2009 when compared to China, the USA, Canada/Quebec, Abu Dhabi, Kazakhstan, India and Russia to give a fair geographic spread, South Africa had been with a group that had the lowest in prices, it now had the “gold medal” for being the highest of all and by 2020 the situation would be exacerbated unless something dramatic took place.

Strachan said that in the World Bank Report of 2013, SA port charges were amongst the highest in the world; container charges being 710% more than the global norm and automotive cargoes costing a premium of 874% more than the global norm. This detrimental fact was compounded by port and rail freight inefficiencies to local destinations.

He told parliamentarians that in DTI’s view it was extraordinary that exports were virtually subsiding raw material exports such as iron and coal.  In the case of coal, this was 50% below the global norm and iron ore approximately 10%, according to 2012 figures, these being the latest DTI could get.

This led, Strachan said, to the unfortunate situation where the country exported iron ore at a net loss to the country but imported girders, cranes and containers, for example, at possibly the highest in the world.  It was impractical to have subsidies passed on to exporters of primary products penalising importers of necessary needs, he said.

On carbon tax, he dismissed any “one size fits all” programme as contributing to the overall problem by making things worse and on climate change generally, he said that DTI was already working towards the protocols agreed by South Africa “through a range of measures to support energy efficient systems and investment in energy.”    These were part of DTI’s manufacturing enhancement programme, he noted.

He said there should be a shift in pricing “in favour of less carbon intensive sectors which are more labour intensive and value adding”. He quoted particularly steel, polymers and aluminium, which he said should be considerably below import parity levels.

Nullifying NDP objectives

Garth Strachan concluded that with manufacturers already going out of business, the issue of administered prices was probably the most important issue facing South Africa at the moment in the search to create more jobs.

Parliamentarians noted with concern what DDG Strachan had illustrated in his review. Many called for a joint portfolio meeting on the subject with public enterprises, transport and energy, despite the subject of administered prices also not being a core function of the trade and industry committee. For example, it was noted, they had no parliamentary right to influence such bodies as Transnet and Eskom, nor deal with treasury on tax and tariffs.

 

Posted in Cabinet,Presidential, Electricity, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Labour, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Liquid fuels industry short on BEE charter

Fuel industry attacked on BEE …

On the subject of black economic empowerment  (BEE), acting director of the department of energy (DoE), Tseliso Maqubela, told Parliament, before it went into short recess, that the major target for his department was to ensure a more immediate transformation of the liquid fuels industry.   Economic transformation in the energy sector was a top priority, he said, and he told the portfolio committee on energy that much more was needed to be done by this sector to improve the situation.

This was reminiscent of similar complaints made of the mining industry under the same BEE charter by the director general of the department of mineral resources.

Victor Sibiya said, as DoE’s  deputy director of petroleum products, also acting, that one of the three pillars of his department’s programme was compliance, monitoring and enforcement and whilst 30% of petroleum licensing permits showed around a 50% compliance factor this was not enough and new legislation was on its way to “toughen up” on B-BBEE regulations.

New code called for

The challenge at present, he said, was that the process of penalisation was far too cumbersome and did not deal sufficiently with repeated offenders.   A revised code was urgently required, he added.

On a separate subject, Sibaya said that as far as the basic fuel price (BFP) was concerned all calculations were based as if the final product had been produced in South Africa.  DoE was at work, he said, on a paper studying the various elements that contributed to the BFP, particularly with regard to smoothing out fluctuations to the consumer and attempting to align municipalities to the magisterial zones which governed the distribution.

Retail margins were also being studied in a second round of estimations working with operations carried out by what was referred to as the “DoE model service station”. Other factors included the shortly to be published biofuels price schedule which would govern the mix with petroleum products.

Reaching out

Further to economic transformation programmes, Sibaya spoke of a programme to establish fuel stations in deeper rural areas supplying other forms of energy needed by households such as LPG and extending services to include food, household retail goods and community services to improve quality of household life amongst the poor, another NDP priority.

In broad terms the acceleration of LPG supplies to rural areas, in fact to all areas in general, would contribute greatly, he said, to this objective.

Acting DG Tseliso Maqubela said he would respond to the parliamentary enquiry on the volatility of fuel prices in a prepared paper shortly, as this issue was also in the process of being studied at present. When asked about the levy on purchase of vehicles and where the funds went, Maqubela said this was in national treasury’s domain and was “probably an attempt by treasury officials to mitigate on carbon emissions”.

Refinery decisions

Touching on petroleum issues, DG of energy policy, planning and clean energy, Ompi Aphane, told the committee that a decision would be taken during 2016 on expanding oil refining capacity in South Africa based on the conclusions of the liquid fuels infrastructure plan.

Contributing to the basic costs of energy at the moment in South Africa, he said, were current world tensions particularly in the Middle East.   Self-dependency, however, was unfortunately only a long-term goal, he said.

A similar plan to increase refining was an increase in gas supplies based on the current gas usage master plan that had been started and this programme would be concurrent with an urgent expansion of gas storage facilities in the country.

Minister weighs in

Most of parliamentary question time was occupied by the new minister of energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who spoke broadly on energy issues; the fact that she recognised the need for urgent decisions by her ministry; and the necessity for her recently launched ministerial advisory committee on energy to receive input “in order that the opinions of all stakeholders can be considered.”

Such a ‘brains trust’, she said, should also include representation from the portfolio committee on energy itself.

Other articles in this category or as background

http://parlyreportsa.co.za//?s=bee+liquid+fuels

http://parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/eskom-black-owned-coal-mining/

 

 

Posted in BEE, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, Finance, economic, Fuel,oil,renewables, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

New minister focuses on Eskom strategy

Eskom strategy goes to economic cluster

In the light of recent Eskom rolling blackouts, new minister of public enterprises and past Western Cape premier, Lynne Brown,  promised that Eskom will have a “comprehensive sustainability strategy” submitted to the newly appointed economic cluster by the end of June, this cluster including new finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and new energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

The arrival of such a report on his desk has not confirmed in any way by minister Nene in recent statements regarding the budget vote.

Despite the Eskom complaint that it is on the receiving end of a R225bn revenue shortfall for the current multi-year determination tariff (MYPD) for 2013 and 2018, fixed at 8% by the regulatory authority Nersa instead of the 16% asked for by Eskom, it might appear that the electricity giant has successfully prevailed upon Nersa for a further 5% effective after only one year of the new tariff structure from comments during portfolio committee meetings during the new Parliament’s first few weeks.

We told you so

Eskom’s new sustainability programme will include new funding options, acting CEO Collin Matjila has said, but funding aspects will no doubt be affected by the recent downgrade in ratings, a fear of this being expressed in the appeal against the Nersa award played out by past CEO Brian Dames in the parliamentary energy and public enterprises portfolio committees last year.

Fitch, as quoted recently by Reuters, noticeably excluded energy sustainability issues as the reason for downgrading but indicated that it was more the result of mining labour unrest and manufacturing index dips. Now, the IMF has commented unfavourably on SA’s economic growth and whilst again no fingers were specifically pointed at energy shortages, it is acknowledged by most commentators that international funding requirements will not benefit from such sentiments.

IEP needed

In addition to financial sustainability issues, Eskom says also it needs to know soon the final findings of the integrated energy plan being finalised so as to complete its own future strategies, some clue having been provided by the new Gas Plan recently published by DoE.

Minister Lynne Brown said the matter was indeed her priority to get such strategies to cabinet whilst at the same time she needed time to acquaint herself with all outstanding issues in her new cabinet post.

Other articles in this category or as background
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//parliament-sa-this-week/cabinet-fifth-sa-parliament/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-taking-sa-to-the-edge-eiug/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-the-elephant-in-the-room/
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//energy/eskom-determined-to-sustain-mypd-asking-price/

Posted in cabinet, Electricity, Energy, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

This website is Archival

If you want your publications as they come from Parliament please contact ParlyReportSA directly. All information on this site is posted two weeks after client alert reports sent out.

Upcoming Articles

  1. MPRDA : Shale gas developers not satisfied
  2. Environmental Bill changes EIAs
  3. Parliament thrashes out debt relief Bill
  4. Border Mangement Bill grinds through Parliament
  5. BUSA, farmers, COSATU give no support to sugar tax

Earlier Editorials

Earlier Stories

  • Anti Corruption Unit overwhelmed

    Focus on top down elements of patronage  ….editorial….As Parliament went into short recess, the Anti-Corruption Unit, the combined team made up of SARS, Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and Justice Department, divulged […]

  • PIC comes under pressure to disclose

    Unlisted investments of PIC queried…. When asked for information on how the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) had invested its funds, Dr  Daniel Matjila, Chief Executive Officer, told parliamentarians that the most […]

  • International Arbitration Bill to replace BITs

    Arbitration Bill gets SA in line with UNCTRAL ….. The tabling of the International Arbitration Bill in Parliament will see ‘normalisation’ on a number of issues regarding arbitration between foreign companies […]

  • Parliament rattled by Sizani departure

    Closed ranks on Sizani resignation….. As South Africa struggles with the backlash of having had three finance ministers rotated in four days and news echoes around the parliamentary precinct that […]

  • Protected Disclosures Bill: employer to be involved

    New Protected Disclosures Bill ups protection…. sent to clients 21 January……The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs will shortly be debating the recently tabled Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill which proposes a duty […]