Our power utility leads the news again with talks of permanent load shedding, but at least they’re being honest and have FINALLY given us a plan. We’re using the glut of Oscar nominations for one of our favourite 2022 flieks as a comfort blanket for what has been a wild January.
Of course, no edition of /The Wrap/ would be complete without some gaffs from the UK, or a hat tip to an amazing woman (we’re going to miss you, Jacinda).
So, sit back and sip a hot cup of empowering and easy-to-understand news, brought to you by Verashni Pillay and the /explain.co.za/ team. 😄
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🗞 For text, keep scrolling…
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ OUR TAKE: We’re right there with you, South Africa
Carrying a Green Mamba passport used to come with a sense of pride and camaraderie, before the comrades of administrations past raided the coffers and plunged us into the abyss. But we didn’t fall for it.
We stood up to them with the strength of our constitution and on the back of our free press. We exposed the #GuptaLeaks and are now seeing the benefits of our unity – it is our strength, after all.🏋
Yes, Ramaphosa’s new dawn was a damp squib in his first term but no matter what the outcomes are at next year’s polls, he is beginning to clear the path for a brighter future. Accountability is happening, a new way of doing politics is forming, and The Just Energy Transition may lead us away from the precipice of certain electricity doom – while offering a significant opportunity to further develop our country and economy.
There is still hope for a rainbow after this storm- and the green is still deep and rich on your passport.
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ BIG STORY: There’s still plenty of load shedding to come
In case you missed it, Eskom announced the probability of a permanent state of Stage 2 and 3 load shedding for the next 24 months at a press briefing on Sunday 22 January. 😱 They’re hoping to:
a. Provide us with some predictability when it comes to the electricity crisis wreaking havoc in the country, and
b. Claw back time to do the necessary maintenance and work to end this madness. While these comments came as a sucker punch to a gatvol citizenry, it was refreshingly brutal honesty.
Well, at least until the next day the utility released a statement explaining how, actually, they can’t commit to lower load shedding stages because the maintenance job card is long and the frequency of additional breakdowns is erratic.😵
But the fact is load shedding is here to stay for the next two years. Let’s break down the technical stuff:
🔹48GW: The maximum amount Eskom can generate at any given time.
🔹28,000MW: The country’s total electricity demand.
🔹6GW: The amount of generating capacity that is currently out of action thanks to scheduled maintenance.
🔹16GW: The further amount that is down due to breakdowns – one of those breakdowns was a catastrophic chimney collapse late last year that knocked out half of Kusile.
That means a total of 22GW of capacity out of action. If you’ve been keeping track, that’s roughly half of that maximum amount we told you Eskom can generate.
The problem is that some of that maximum 48GW installed capacity is in the form of “emergency reserves”. This means burning hellishly expensive diesel in open cycle gas turbines (OCGT).
Doing so cost Eskom R18b this financial year. They will probably need another R4b to get us to March. That’s about how much was earmarked for “Innovation, science and technology” in last year’s national budget!
But there is a plan! Our power utility wants to return the damaged units 1, 2, and 3 at Kusile back to service by early 2024 – if they can get the environmentalists off their back about Sulphur emissions – and Koeberg unit 1 will also come back from its maintenance next year.
In the meantime, there are schemes to buy in more embedded capacity from independent power producers that already have grid access and fix all the other niggles around our ageing coal fleet. In all, 24 months is a realistic target to get back what we have, while adding some new projects to the mix.
You can follow our more in-depth coverage on these new projects at explain.co.za, or our Just Energy Transition media partnership with Financial Mail – the first story is out in this week’s issue!
▁ ▂ ▄ ▅ ▆ ▇ █ BRIEFS
A pipe problem in No. 10 Downing Street
Someone call a plumber, because there must be some extra silliness getting into the 10 Downing Street water and it’s affecting the UK’s Prime Ministers. Current resident Rishi Sunak thought it a fine idea to do a bit of social media video from the back of his chauffeur-driven car, but was instead hit with a fine for not wearing a seatbelt! 🤭
Oh, silly us, he probably ingested a disdain for British laws when he attended – and was duly fined – his bumbling predecessor Boris Johnson’s birthday party during the country’s lockdown.
Or maybe he was a little light-headed from the cabin pressure on his frequent, short plane trips across the Isle of Man.
Either way, his detractors have had plenty of fuel for their “Rishi out” furnace, noting a similar disregard for the rules of his predecessors as a primary concern.
While he’s a more stable hand than Johnson, his party, the Tories, are trailing the Labour Party, their opposition, in polling points.
All signs point to Sunak maintaining Downing Street residency until the next general election, which will take place no later than January 2025, unless he does something even crazier than riding in the back of a car without a seatbelt.
Matric class of 2022: Trust us on the sunscreen
Well done, you’re on your way. You’re going to great places, what a glorious day. You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes, now don’t get scammed when choosing a school. (With apologies to Dr Seuss).
Many of last year’s matriculants are looking to get that all-important tertiary education – a make or break where getting a job is concerned.
Graduates in South Africa have an unemployment rate of just 10.7%. With just a matric, that rate jumps to 33.4%, according to the latest Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS). 😳
Thus, the scrum for tertiary studies funding is truly on with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) already receiving over 1.1 million applications – 10 percent of those applications were by SASSA beneficiaries who all received instant funding approval. NSFAS applications from SASSA beneficiaries are fast-tracked and receive instant approval for registration at public universities or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
If you or someone you know qualifies for NSFAS funding, there is still time until 31 January 2023 to get your application in. Benefits include waiving registration fees and guaranteed funding for TVET courses for qualifying students.
That’s because the government is trying hard to up the falling registration numbers at the TVET colleges.
Meanwhile, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande is issuing warnings to unsuspecting students and parents to be aware of what the department calls bogus colleges, which mislead the public with false promises of nationally and internationally recognised qualifications. It’s rough out there!
f you know of anyone deviating from the approved list of tertiary institutions, tell them it’s important to be aware of the existence of bogus colleges. Our tips:
- Do research on whether the college is accredited by a recognised accrediting agency.
- Look for information about the college online, including reviews and testimonials from current and former students.
- Look for a physical address of the college and visit the campus.
G’bye Aunty Jac
Last week, Aotearoa New Zealand and the world, were hit by a surprise announcement: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation. Ardern became the world’s youngest female head of state when she was elected prime minister at 37. And now, at 42, she’s had enough. [Ed: That age is the answer to everything, after all. If you’re a Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy fan, you know what we mean].
Her reason? She says she no longer “had enough in the tank to do it (the job) justice”.
Ardern will be remembered as a gracious leader who led the country through some of its most challenging years:
🔹The hate-fuelled Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019, when 51 people were killed and 40 injured. Ardern called the act “One of New Zealand’s darkest days”, and her government banned military-grade rifles after the fact.
🔹The Covid-19 pandemic was light on New Zealand – the country had the lowest death rates – but the Ardern administration was decisive from the start. In fact, life expectancy improved! By January 2023, the country had recorded fewer than 2,500 deaths in total from the pandemic – even though conspiracy theorists picketed and occupied the lawns of parliament for weeks. 💉
Most notably, Ardern’s legacy will be defined by her womanhood. She became the second world leader to give birth while in office (Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was the first, in 1990) and took her infant daughter, Neve, to the UN General Assembly in New York.
Ardern leaves before a national election amid “worryingly high” inflation and a spate of retail crime that have spooked the generally crime-free Kiwi society. She puts her embattled Labour Party in the hands of Chris Hipkins, the quietly competent former education minister. His deputy Carmel Sepuloni is the first Pasifika person to be elected to such high office.
The daughter of an abattoir worker and a fruit picker, Sepuloni, is of Samoan, Tongan and Pākehā (European) descent. She said the moment had “huge significance to our community in terms of representation”.😍
We love that Ardern models for us what self-care looks like, especially for high-achieving women. And we love that these moves make way for indigenous leaders to come to the fore.
(Solar) power to the people
It started as a pipe dream in 2021 when the first serious grumblings came from government and energy regulators about selling excess solar electricity back to the grid. Then came the historic load shedding of 2022 and suddenly solar to the home became a necessity just to live. 💡
Now the City of Cape Town has received clearance from the regulators to accept power to the grid from Small Scale Embedded Generation to help contribute to its goal of four stages of load shedding protection by 2026.
Other municipalities will definitely follow suit in the near future, but now it’s open season on the unwitting consumer as reports of price gouging (exorbitant prices on necessities in an
emergency) on home solar installation are already streaming in. The Competition Commission has even stepped in.
You can mail them if you have a complaint, the body said in a statement recently, noting: “Where increases in costs cannot be justified, the Commission has an obligation to investigate and/or prosecute.”
According to Absa’s loadshedding finance calculator, a household that spends R2,500 a month on electricity would need to spend over an estimated R190,000 to go completely off-grid through the use of solar panels, an off-grid inverter, battery storage and a backup generator.
A more realistic cost is the R320,000 an explain contact spent on their 16kW system – which includes 20kWh worth of backup batteries. Shop around for prices, ask loads of questions and check for online reviews to guard against getting gouged.
Entertainment: Queen Viola robbed with Oscar 2023 noms
Did you watch Everything Everywhere All at Once, like we told you to? The deeply funny and poignant sci-fi action adventure was the break-out indie hit of last year, and now it’s got the Oscar nominations to prove it.
And, look, we’re ecstatic that the most entertaining multiverse movie released in 2022 was a) not a Marvel film, b) a return to Crouching Dragon action form for Michelle Yeoh, and c) leading the Oscars pack with 11 nominations. But Viola Davis surely deserves a best actress nod for her stirring work in The Woman King???
Elsewhere, we’re rooting for Turning Red to snatch the award as the best coming of age movie of the year from Guillermo del Toro’s groundbreaking spin on Pinocchio (Ed: it’s actually the award for best animated feature, but I get the puberty reference).
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a shoo-in for best costume design – because you don’t bet against Africa. And please inject the energy of the RRR centrepiece Naatu Naatu into our veins and give it the best original song award now. This is not a contest.
Interestingly, the streaming platforms are still having a great time at the awards shows, even though we can visit the cinema again. Netflix leads the way with 15 nominations and Disney+ bagged 12. Apple TV+ lags behind with only two nominations (tying with Amazon), but the service still has the bragging rights for being the first of the streamers to win a Best Picture Award last year.
The pandemic tech bubble finally popped
In 2020 we were all forced home and onto online services. This meant the tech business boomed and the biggest companies like Amazon, Facebook (it wasn’t called Meta back then), Google, and Microsoft were hiring talent to keep up with the demand for innovation.
Fast-forward three years and you’re not even bothered about the latest scarily-named Covid variant. Like, it’s literally named Kraken and we can’t be bothered to wear a mask on an aeroplane. 😬
You’re back to seeing your personal trainer in person at the crowded gym and haven’t had that Sunday lunch Zoom call with your extended family in months.
So what of all those shiny tech jobs that powered the now temporary changes in your pandemic-affected life? Redundant. The companies we mentioned earlier have shed 50,000 employees from their payrolls since November.
In addition, son of our soil, Elon Musk ripped through the Twitter workforce, reducing the bird-app employee headcount by two thirds. Twitter is still functioning as a service, and while it is a mere ant among tech giants, you can only imagine that other CEOs took notice.
All in all, it’s been a global tech job’s bloodbath.
Contrary to what capitalists believe, the growth line cannot always be up and to the right. However, major breakthroughs in other areas like artificial intelligence (think ChatGPT) are attracting additional investment for those businesses to grow – Microsoft has poured more billions into OpenAI to closer integrate its innovations into Microsoft services.
The tech industry is diversifying, and the job roundabout keeps turning. While tech bosses make big moves, workers inevitably suffer. Let’s hope AI doesn’t create more of the same.
Adulting: You’re not poor, it’s just the bank fees
Not even 30 years ago, owning a home in your mid-20s was commonplace for middle-class South Africans. Yet, our generation has fallen way behind, and you’re more likely to be reading this from a bathroom in your parents’ house. The struggle is real.
But there’s a reason! You’ve survived two financial crises in the last 15 years AND you’ve been taking sniper fire from your supposed ally: your bank. 😒
South African banks are robbing us blind with their fees. If you’re an Absa client, look away. Compare Absa’s transaction fees to other parts of the world, and only Australia, the United States, and China have higher account charges.
While free ATM withdrawals is common overseas, we’re paying R12 for each one! EFTs are still free, but if you’re looking for an instant settlement, be prepared to pay as much as R50! And always make sure you have some money in your account because failed transactions can set you back by almost R130. That’s right; it’s pretty damn expensive to be poor.
So how are the big banks in SA getting away with this? In short: because they can.
The institutions are sticking to the regulations determined by the industry ombudsman and there is little that the Competition Commission can do if there is no evidence of collusion. Government’s proposed interventions include a new state-owned bank and creating a “digital rand” – neither of which are bad ideas, but will be very hard to implement.
So what can you do to fix this? Make better choices.
Don’t just get carded with the first bank you see. Do your research, read the fine print and compare service charges across all the major banks.
For what it’s worth, banking with Capitec is the most affordable option.
Solutions: Plugging the pothole gap with tech
As part of our Solutions Journalism series, we’re looking at how projects across the country can offer a potential fix to some of the country’s problems. This week we’re featuring our story on Pothole Patrol.
The public-private initiative is saving motorists from the horrors of the approximately 100,000 potholes that infest the extensive Joburg road network.
Of course, the idea spawned out of (positive) collusion between two of South Africa’s major insurance players – Discovery and DialDirect – and the City of Johannesburg, because potholes may be an annoyance to you, but it’s a fiscal nightmare for the people who must pay the claims.
While the service has been an amazing counter to the unseasonal weather (driven by the very traffic and its effect on climate change) and the increased number of potholes it creates, the true innovation has been combining the app data with real-time telematics sampled from the insurance customers. This way traffic density can be used to model future pothole hotspots and the service can take preventative maintenance.
What started as a citizen-sourced retroactive pothole filling scheme has scaled into a data-driven business that could inform future decisions around road design and traffic engineering.
We love these stories of local solutions that can scale to nation-changing movements. If you know any similar solutions stories to share, message us on WhatsApp and we may feature them.
That’s it from us at The Wrap, an award-winning product of explain.co.za – simple news summaries for busy people. 💁🏾♀
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Till next time, goodbye from the team ✌🏽