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South Africa cannot afford major nuclear program: finance minister 

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa can not afford a major nuclear program for lack of money, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Thursday, as concerns mounted over the country’s pursuit of nuclear energy.

A major nuclear program would be out of the question for at least the next five years, the minister told a gathering of business people and journalists in Cape Town.

He was speaking amid speculations that South Africa would soon reach a nuclear deal with Russia, under which the latter would help the African country build nuclear reactors at a cost of 1 trillion rand (about 71.4 billion U.S. dollars).

Gigaba contradicted with the newly appointed Minister of Energy David Mahlobo, who said last week that South Africa will enhance the sustainable use of nuclear power.

There have been speculations that Mahlobo was appointed the energy minister to push for the much-criticized nuclear deal with Russia.

The South African government has approved its Integrated Resource Plan of 2010-30, which provides for coal, gas, renewables and 9,600-megawatt nuclear as part of the energy landscape by 2030.

But environmental groups, which question the safety of nuclear energy, have launched a series of campaigns against the plan.

In an apparent bid to alleviate concerns, Gigaba said that with a slowdown in demand for power due to low economic growth, there’s less pressure on the government to deliver more energy into the grid.

He said electricity utility Eskom has 5,700 megawatts of surplus electricity.

“We’ve got access to electricity, there are no intensive users that are taking up the generation capacity that we have,” Gigaba said.

Delivering his Medium Term Budget Statement in Parliament on Wednesday, Gigaba said the government is facing a massive revenue shortfall of 50. 8 billion rand, which is the largest revenue shortfall since the global financial crisis in 2008.

He also revealed a “blow out” in the budget deficit by 54 billion rand to 203 billion rand, or 4.3 percent of GDP in 2017/18.

This coupled with the downward revision of South Africa’s economic growth projections for 2017, from 1.3 percent previously predicted to 0.7 percent.



South Africa to use tourism to ignite economic growth: official

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa is currently implementing various interventions to boost the tourism sector and use it to ignite growth, create jobs and fight poverty, the South African Tourism told Xinhua on Thursday.

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of the South African Tourism, said that the board began actively implementing its new 5-in-5 strategy on April 1, 2017. The initiative intends to get 5 million more tourists.

He said, “This target is made up of 4 million additional international tourist arrivals, and 1 million extra domestic holiday trips, which will increase the total from 12.7 million tourists in 2016 to 17.6 million in 2021. We are confident that we will soon start reaping the rewards of this bold new strategy, but we need all spheres of government and the industry to work with us aiming for this. “

South Africa is currently facing weak economic growth with 2017 forecast of 0.7 from last year’s 0.3 percent. This has affected local tourists who have less disposable income to spend on leisure visits. At the same time the weak South African rand have made visiting the country cheap for some international tourists. South Africans have been encouraged to be the country’s ambassadors and also encouraged to develop a culture of visiting.

The 5-in-5 strategy is integrated to the I/We Do Tourism - a new movement to encourage every South African to be a tourism ambassador in their own country.

Ntshona said, “We want to show the value of tourism to the economy and that tourism touches every sector and every person’s life, directly or indirectly. If tourism prospers, we will all prosper. A key component of this is also driving domestic tourism, encouraging more South Africans to take holiday trips in their own country and experience its many delights.”

The South African Tourism is working with provincial tourism authorities to boost the sector. Ntshona stated that they want to expose the less visited provinces that have an abundance of attractions and experiences.

Ntshona pointed out that South Africa’s tourism sector cannot grow in isolation from the rest of the continent. He said they want to partner with the private sector, and neighboring countries to elevate African tourism to being a major player on the global stage.

The country’s blue print the National Development Plan (NDP) identifies tourism as one of the key drivers of inclusive economic growth, aimed at reducing poverty and inequality and creating new jobs.

Ntshona said, “Based on this plan, South Africa can realize these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society. Tourism can achieve all these. We are already showing positive progress in implementing the NDP.”

South African Tourism currently supports some 700,000 jobs in the country, and contributes 3 percent to GDP. The country intends to create an extra 225,000 jobs in the tourism sector by 2030.

The South African Tourism boss added, “Tourism’s labor absorption capacity remains a great weapon with which we can solve the jobs crisis. This goes hand in hand with the notions of inclusive growth and radical economic transformation, both of which can only be achieved by creating a fertile environment in which tourism can take root and flourish.”


South Africa on alert after plague reported in Madagascar

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Thursday warned South Africans travelling to Madagascar to avoid highly populated areas containing the plague outbreak in that country.

“South African travellers to Madagascar are advised to avoid highly populated areas and to wear surgical masks while in transit. Liberal application of DEET-containing insect repellent is advised to prevent flea bites. Prophylactic antibiotics are not advised,” said NICD in a statement.

NICD advised people returning from Madagascar to monitor their health for 15 days and seek medical care immediately at their nearest health facility when symptoms of the plague are observed. According to the NICD, the symptoms of the plague includes “fever, chills, head and body aches, painful and inflamed lymph nodes, or shortness of breath with coughing and/or blood-tainted sputum.”

The NICD also advised those with symptoms of the plague to tell the doctor of their recent travel.

World Health Organization (WHO) said on October 20 that 1297 cases and 102 deaths have been reported to health authorities in Madagascar. Case fatality rate is 7 percent. WHO said 65 percent of cases are presenting as pneumonic plague, rather than the usual bubonic form.

All South African airliners have been warned to be alert of passengers becoming sick. The Civil Aviation Authority has conducted refresher training for members in event that suspected cases are identified. The port health officials have upped their screening measures to detect and respond to ill passengers arriving in the country. The country have also put contingent measures in place should the plague be reported.


South African blue chips set new record as local unit tumbles

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- Blue chips at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) reached a new record as the South African rand weakened.

The rand traded at R14.2 to the U.S. dollar on Thursday, after dropping as low as R14.09 following the Medium-term Budget Policy Statement on Wednesday, which painted a gloomy picture of the country’s finances.

A weaker rand tends to fare well for large South African companies which bring in the bulk of their income abroad and earn more in rand if the currency is weak.

South Africa’s Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba slashed the country’s expected economic growth to 0.7 percent from 1.3 percent.

The all share index closed 0.78 percent higher to 58,576.29 points, while the blue-chip top 40 index added 0.8 percent to trade at a record of 52,273.52 points.

The resources index, which benefits directly from a weaker rand as mining companies’ commodities are priced in dollar, was already 2.91 percent higher.

The financial index, however, lost 1.21 percent as the financial sector is expected to be affected by another downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating. Banks dropped 2.4 percent, in line with the weakness of the local unit.

Anglo American advanced 2.13 percent to settle at R267.59. BHP Billiton 2.68 percent to R257 and Sasol 3.46 percent to R413.84. Anglo American Platinum gained 2.95 percent to R386.07, Impala 13.12 percent to R37 and Lonmin 7.95 percent to R17.93. British American Tobacco rose 2.21 percent to R924 and Richemont 1.79 percent to R129.78.

FirstRand lost 1.92 percent to R51.2, Standard Bank 3.14 percent to R160.01, Nedbank shed 2.25 percent to R206.62, and Barclays Africa 2.85 percent to R136.3. Sanlam lost 2.97 percent to R68.93 and Liberty Group 1.71 percent to R106.96. Retailer Mr Price tumbled 2.79 percent to R170.59 and TFG 3.04 percent to R128.69.



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