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Former President Nelson Mandela has appeared frail in recent appearances. Mandela's foundation threatens legal action against a book publisher and criticizes Charlize Theron. The Finance Minister prioritizes job creation in his first budget; last quarter's job loss was the worst in twenty years. South Africa ranks as third in the world for the number of women in Parliament. Power utility Eskom faces trouble from all sides. And a former rugby star and commentator admits to being the man in a grainy sex tape released earlier this year.
Top News: Rumors continue to swirl around the declining health of former President Nelson Mandela. The global icon has looked increasingly frail in his recent public appearances, but the Nelson Mandela Foundation denied the rumors, saying his form was in line with his old age. Mandela’s grandson, who had breakfast with his grandfather recently, said, “there is nothing wrong with him.”
Separately, the Nelson Mandela Foundation threatened legal action against the publishers of a biography of Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou-Nguesso that claimed to have a foreword penned by Mandela himself. The foundation said Mandela never authored the preface or even read the book, and the publishers eventually apologized for using quotes from a dated speech by Mandela and suggesting Mandela had indeed endorsed the book. The foundation also criticized South African film star Charlize Theron, who auctioned off a meeting with Mandela without the foundation’s approval.
In a move long-awaited by the entire nation, Brazil’s Joel Santana was sacked from his job as coach of the Bafana Bafana, South Africa’s national soccer team. The move, a mere eight months before the country hosts the first World Cup on African soil, follows a string of dismal performances, which saw the team lose eight of its last nine matches. While Santana’s firing was unanimously celebrated, the announcement of his replacement was criticized: the South African Football Association selected none other than Carlos Parreira, another Brazilian, who had occupied the post previously before quitting for personal reasons.
South Africa’s Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, released his first budget — the twice-yearly exercise where the government’s lofty promises are met with a dose of reality. Gordhan, who replaced longstanding finance chief Trevor Manuel earlier this year, continued his predecessor’s pragmatic approach but announced that the budget deficit would jump to 7.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, to keep propping up the economy while accounting for a large tax shortfall. The government’s priority is job creation, with the optimistic ambition of creating 4.5 million jobs over the next five years. The new budget also increases spending on the fight against HIV and AIDS, and cuts $3.5 billion in unnecessary expenses over the next three years.
Gordhan also announced to Parliament that foreign exchange controls would be relaxed to stimulate investment in South Africa and that beleaguered power utility Eskom would not receive additional funding.
In a sign of just how uphill the job creation effort really is, Statistics South Africa said that 418,000 jobs were lost during the third quarter – the worst such job loss in at least 20 years. Official unemployment stands at 24.5 percent, although the real rate is thought to be much higher as many have given up looking for work. The latest statistics are sure to fuel the debate about labor brokers. The Congress of South African Trade Unions is pushing to ban the practice, but others say doing away with labor brokers could exacerbate South Africa’s job crisis.
South Africa placed at opposite ends of two recent international surveys, highlighting its peculiar position as a mostly third-world country with first-world infrastructure and aspirations. South Africa now ranks third in the world behind Rwanda and Sweden for the number of women in Parliament with 45 percent. In more dispiriting news, the new ranking of the United Nations Human Development Index, which takes into account criteria such as life expectancy, education, standard of living and income, showed that South Africa still placed in the bottom third of the world’s nations with a 129th position out of 182 countries.
Money: In his last interest rate decision, outgoing Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni resisted offering South Africans a parting gift and left the repo rate unchanged at 7 percent, saying the inflation outlook had not significantly worsened since the last rate announcement – in part thanks to the current strength of the rand currency. Mboweni is set to be replaced by Gill Marcus, the former head of the Absa banking group.
Confirming Mboweni’s comments, Statistics South Africa said that the consumer price index decreased more than expected in September to 6.1 percent compared with 6.4 percent in August. The new inflation rate is very close to the Reserve Bank’s target range of 3 percent to 6 percent.
Eskom Chief Executive Jacob Maroga denied he had been asked to resign by the troubled power company’s board. Trade union Solidarity and others have asked for Maroga’s head after Eskom requested huge tariff increases to fund badly needed infrastructure investment.
Elsewhere: Former rugby star Joost van der Westhuizen finally admitted that it was indeed him who appeared in a grainy video featuring a man taking drugs and having sex with a woman other than his wife, famous Afrikaans singer Amor Vittone. The video surfaced earlier this year in a local newspaper, but van der Westhuizen vehemently denied he was the man in the video. He was later hospitalized for stress reasons and finally came clean in a newly released biography. The former Springbok player lost his job as sports commentator as a result of the latest revelations and his marriage, often described as the South African equivalent to Posh and Becks’, is said to be on the rocks.