South Africa

  1. South Africa power cuts: My blackout misery

    Mohammed Allie

    BBC News, Cape Town

    A person in South Africa holding a mobile phone
    Image caption: People are going through their phone data quickly as the wi-fi goes off doing a power cut

    The ongoing power cuts, euphemistically labelled “load-shedding” by the state-owned company Eskom, who hold the monopoly on power supply in South Africa, is really starting to take its toll on my mental wellbeing.

    I say this without exaggeration because one has become so demoralised about the power cuts dictating one’s professional and social lives that you sometimes feel helpless.

    Here are a few examples of how the power cuts, which thankfully are scheduled, have affected me this week as they increased to up to six hours each day.

    On Tuesday I had to submit a weekly column to a newspaper by lunchtime. After rushing to get it done by midday when our power would be cut for two hours, I managed to finish in time but then couldn’t email it because my wi-fi was off and my phone’s data had been chewed up after using it as a personal hotspot.

    This meant I had to wait for the power to come back on before I could send off the column. Fortunately the editor, who was equally livid about the impact of the power cuts, fully understood my predicament.

    On Wednesday morning, after returning from gym my garage door opened only slightly before the power was cut. Having left my house keys inside, I had to crawl and roll under the door - which was about 30cm off the ground - to get in!

    When power was restored, the door malfunctioned but fortunately I was able to do a video call with my long-serving technician who kindly helped me sort out the problem. Now I can fix garage doors...

    And this kind of situation you could multiply probably millions of times around the country - some people have appliances like fridges and stoves damaged by the power surges, it’s extremely frustrating and annoying.

    A woman by a fridge in South Africa
    Image caption: There is little to smile about with perishables in fridges that can get damaged by power surges

    Some media outlets are now even providing advice on how to preserve food and perishable items that are stored in fridges while coffee shops, especially those in malls where generators are their saving grace, report increased patronage from people keen to continue working on their laptops while using the free wi-fi.

  2. SA police issue rumour warning over tavern deaths

    Forensic personnel investigate after the deaths of patrons found inside the Enyobeni Tavern
    Image caption: A forensic team was at the site of the tragedy on Sunday and Monday and investigations are on-going

    South African police have warned people not to spread what it describes as "fabricated stories" regarding the deaths of 21 teenagers at a drinking place over the weekend.

    As there were no visible signs of injury, the police had ruled out a crush or stampede as the cause of death.

    In a statement, the police said that forensic teams were still trying to work out exactly what happened.

    It urged people "to refrain from making risky assumptions which do not assist our investigations".

    The deaths of the young people - who it is believed were all below the legal drinking age of 18 - at the Enyobeni Tavern in East London has shocked the country.

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  3. Experts urge return of SA Covid rules amid monkeypox

    Issa Ahmed

    BBC News

    Monkeypox seen on a man's hand.
    Image caption: Monkeypox infections are usually mild

    South African scientists have urged the government to bring back some coronavirus-curbing measures, after the country recorded its first case of monkeypox.

    The plea from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) comes a week after South Africa ended mandatory mask-wearing, border checks for Covid-19, and size limits on social gatherings.

    A 30-year-old Gauteng man tested positive for monkeypox last week, Health Minister Joe Phaahla recently confirmed.

    He said the patient had no travel history and the virus could not have been acquired outside South Africa.

    Monkeypox, caused by a similar virus to smallpox, can be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person. Infections are usually mild.

    It occurs mostly in remote parts of central and west African countries, near tropical rainforests.

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  4. South Africa ramps up power cuts

    Vumani Mkhize

    BBC Africa Business

    A woman and her great-grandson sit in candlelight during a power cut in 2021.
    Image caption: Enforced blackouts are already a way of life under the beleaguered state power firm

    South Africa's scheduled power cuts are being increased to up to six hours a day to avoid catastrophic grid collapse.

    The main power company Eskom blames its striking workers demanding a 10% pay rise for these new enforced blackouts - or load shedding, as it's called in the country.

    Eskom says it relies on government bailouts to keep the lights on, and therefore it cannot increase its wage bill.

    As a result the blackouts will begin for five hours on Tuesday evening, and again on Wednesday evening.

    South Africa is the continent's most industrialised country, and this disruption to homes and businesses comes in the middle of the Southern hemisphere's cold winter.

    Eskom's problems emanate from a $26bn (£21bn) debt burden, along with an old and failing grid. It did recently build two new power stations but both have design flaws and are unable to provide power on a constant basis.

  5. Mandela family urges alcohol ban after tavern deaths

    A barman pulls a pint in Johannesburg.
    Image caption: At the height of the pandemic South Africa banned alcohol sales

    The family of South Africa's late leader Nelson Mandela has called for all community taverns to close and alcohol to be banned, following the deaths of 21 teenagers in one such venue which have shocked the country.

    Alcohol is "a source of great concern for parents who are justifiably worried with the scourge of sexual offences against women including infants, toddlers, young girls and even abogogo [elders]," said Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, who is Nelson Mandela's grandson and who spoke on behalf of the Royal House of Mandela on Tuesday.

    Times Live quoted him as saying it was "farcical" to try to defend taverns for economic reasons "in light of the innocent lives lost" at the the Enyobeni Tavern in East London.

    South Africa's liquor board has said the owners of the night venue would face criminal charges after allegedly breaching licensing agreements.

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  6. South Africans warned they face severe power cuts

    Vumani Mkhize

    BBC Africa Business

    A shop owner picks an item for a customer by candlelight during power outages
    Image caption: Eskom has been struggling for years

    South Africa's main power company has announced that there is a significant risk of more cuts in its service if an ongoing worker's strike does not come to an end.

    The new power cuts, called load shedding in South Africa, could mean up to six hours without service a day, said Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter in a hastily arranged emergency briefing.

    Workers are demanding a 10% wage increase - more than what the power utility, which relies on government bailouts, is willing to offer.

    They first downed tools over a week ago, plunging the nation into a power crisis in the middle of winter.

    The country's main power supplier has been struggling to provide the service for years due to historic infrastructure and funding problems.

    South Africa is currently under stage four of load shedding, but to prevent a catastrophic grid collapse this could be ramped up to stage six on Tuesday afternoon.

    The impact of sustained power cuts is already having a devastating impact on the economy and on ordinary people’s lives.

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  7. SA tavern tragedy: I saw them fall one after another

    Nomsa Maseko

    BBC Southern Africa correspondent

    Promise Matinise

    Promise Matinise, the entertainment manager of a nightclub where at least 21 people died over the weekend, has told the BBC that he “saw people falling one after the other after bouncers struggled to control large crowds that had entered the establishment”.

    He also says that “at first he assumed they had passed out from drinking too much and then realised that some had stopped breathing”.

    This is when they phoned the owner of the establishment to alert him to what was happening, he says.

    He added that the venue often hosted large crowds, but that this past weekend it seemed like more people had attended the event.

    There are reports that people who had gone to the Enyobeni Tavern in the city of East London were celebrating the end of school exams.

    The cause of the deaths was not immediately clear and the authorities are investigating. The victims were found strewn across floors and tables

  8. SA revokes tavern permit after teenagers' deaths

    Nomsa Maseko

    BBC Southern Africa correspondent

    Enyobeni shebeen in East London, South Africa.
    Image caption: Residents accuse the owner of ignoring liquor trading rules

    South African authorities have revoked a nightclub's permit to sell alcoholic beverages following the deaths of at least 21 people, mostly teenagers, at the establishment.

    The cause of deaths remains unknown.

    Yellow police tape has been used to cordon off the tavern where the teenagers died after a party on Saturday night.

    Police have also been sent there as forensic investigators carry out their work.

    South Africa’s liquor board has said the nightclub owner will face criminal charges after the underage patrons died at the premises.

    Residents in the area want the nightclub to be closed down. They’ve accused the owner of ignoring the rules on liquor trading licences, and only focusing on making a profit.

    By law, nobody under the age of 18 is allowed in nightclubs in South Africa.

    Authorities say there were no visible injuries on the bodies of the deceased and suspect that the deaths could be linked to poisoning.

  9. Police rule out crush in South Africa tavern deaths

    BBC World Service

    Police and investigators put on protective clothing before going into a township pub in South Africa's southern city of East London
    Image caption: At least 22 young people during the incident in the early hours of Sunday

    Forensic experts in South Africa are trying to determine what caused the deaths of 22 young people in a nightclub in the city of East London.

    Police have ruled out a crush and say the party-goers may have ingested a toxic substance.

    Most of the dead were teenagers. Some are reported to have been celebrating the end of their exams.

    Local officials said they feared it was a case of under-age drinking gone wrong.

    President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences, and said he was concerned that young people had gathered at a venue that should be off-limits to under-18s.

  10. South Africa's power cuts widen amid strike

    South Africa power network
    Image caption: Eskom has been struggling to meet power demands in South Africa

    South Africa’s state-run electricity provider Eskom has increased power cuts amid a protest by its workers over wages.

    Eskom said in a statement on Friday that “due to the ongoing unprotected labour action” it was being “compelled to take precautionary actions to conserve emergency generation reserves”.

    The utility firm has been struggling to meet power demands in South Africa for years amid an energy crisis blamed on poor maintenance, rising costs, falling revenues, crumbling infrastructure, corruption and mismanagement.

    The power company, which has implementing "Stage 2" rotational power cuts since the beginning of the week, said on Friday that it was expanding them to the more severe “Stage 4 from Friday 11:00 am until midnight”.

    It made an appeal to its striking workers saying it was exploring for possible solutions to unlock the deadlock with the unions.

    "Eskom appeals to its labour partners and striking employees to embrace the higher purpose of putting the people of South Africa first," it said.

  11. South Africa ditches masks and other Covid rules

    South African wearing face masks in a shopping centre in Cape Town
    Image caption: The health authorities in South Africa have noted a decline in Covid cases

    South Africa has ended the mandatory wearing of face masks to stop the spread of coronavirus.

    People had been required by law to use one in public indoor spaces or when using public transport.

    The health minister also repealed other Covid-19 restrictions, including those that limited the size of gatherings and required tourists to show a vaccination certificate or negative Covid test.

    “The Covid-19 virus is not yet gone... we are just stronger than before, especially with vaccination," Health Minister Joe Phaahla is quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying at a news conference.

    The minister urged those eligible for booster shots or people who had not yet been vaccinated to get their jabs.

    Around half of the country's 40 million adults have received at least one vaccine dose, with 46% fully vaccinated, Reuters reports.

    According to the official figures, South Africa has been the worst-hit country in Africa with more than 3.9 million confirmed cases and more than 100,000 deaths.

  12. South Africa records first monkeypox case

    Dorcas Wangira

    Africa health correspondent

    Blood test vials are seen in front of a screen that says ''Monkeypox''
    Image caption: The NICD laboratory is one of the six labs in Africa that are actively testing and sequencing the monkeypox virus

    South Africa has confirmed a case of monkeypox - the second non-endemic country in Africa after Morocco to do so.

    The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed that the case identified involves a 30-year-old man residing in the Gauteng province.

    Contact tracing has begun - the infected person has no recent travel history.

    Scientists are struggling to explain a recent rise in monkeypox cases around the world that are not linked to travel to the African countries where it is endemic.

    Monkeypox, a mild viral infection, usually occurs in remote areas near tropical rainforests in west and central Africa where animals such as infected rodents, rats and squirrels can pass on the virus to humans.

    It can be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth. Those infected in the UK have been advised to avoid having sex while they have symptoms.

    According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC), there has been a significant increase of the spread of the monkeypox virus on the continent.

    During its weekly briefing, Dr Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of Africa CDC, said there had been a 38% increase in suspected cases and a 12% increase in confirmed cases of monkeypox in the past week.

    This year Africa CDC has so far documented:

    • 1,642 cases of monkeypox (1,571 suspected and 71 confirmed)
    • 73 deaths linked to monkeypox.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to make an important announcement on whether to declare monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.

    Likewise, it is also working towards renaming the virus in order to reduce to stigmatisation associated with it and its link to Africa.

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  13. Mammoth report delivered on SA's Zuma-era corruption

    Nomsa Maseko

    BBC Southern Africa correspondent

    South Africa graft inquiry hands over final investigation report
    Image caption: Judge Raymond Zondo (L) handed over the report to President Ramaphosa

    The final part of a mammoth report into alleged corruption in South Africa under former President Jacob Zuma has been handed to his successor Cyril Ramaphosa.

    The report by Judge Raymond Zondo is more than 5,000 pages long.

    It paints a picture of a country whose coffers were looted by its former president and his associates - the prominent Gupta brothers.

    It also accuses him of halting an investigation into alleged financial misdeeds by the Guptas. They and Mr Zuma deny wrongdoing.

    The Guptas' influence on the hiring and firing of government ministers has also been laid bare by the report.

    It found that Mr Zuma enabled, indirectly, Gupta family members to occupy a place of prominence to the detriment of the country.

    The South African authorities are currently working on having the Gupta brothers extradited from the United Arab Emirates to answer for their alleged crimes.

    The commission's chairman has also recommended that election rules be amended to allow for South Africans to directly elect a president instead of using the party system.

    This, he says, will prevent the country having another leader such as Mr Zuma.

    Mr Ramaphosa must now decide whether further legal action should be taken against his predecessor.

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  14. Ramaphosa denies interference in corruption report

    South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appears to testify before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 12, 2021
    Image caption: The final part of the Zondo report into allegations against his predecessor was delayed

    South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has denied opposition claims of interfering with the country’s judiciary amid delays in the presentation of the final report of a corruption inquiry.

    The commission headed by Justice Raymond Zondo investigated allegations of widespread corruption in South Africa during President Jacob Zuma's nine years in power, known as "State Capture".

    It has already handed over its first, second, third and fourth reports and was due to present the final part of its findings by last Wednesday.

    This has however been delayed several times amid allegations of interference.

    A statement by the presidency said Mr Zondo had communicated last Thursday on the delay "and undertook to finalise the report as soon as possible".

    The commission then said it would deliver it by Sunday evening.

    "This did not unfortunately happen," the presidency added.

    Mr Ramaphosa says that they have now agreed with the commission to a "tentative date of Wednesday, 22 June" for the report to be handed over.

    "The presidency therefore rejects claims that the President has in any manner interfered with the work of the commission or the judiciary as speculated by some opposition parties," the statement says.