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Kriel in Mpumalanga now the second highest SO2 emissions hotspot in the world

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In the latest study to illustrate alarmingly high levels of air pollution caused by humans, the area around Kriel in Mpumalanga is now the world’s second biggest sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions hotspot in the world. This is according to new data from NASA satellites, released on Monday morning.

Greenpeace India commissioned a study using NASA satellites to track SO2 hotspots around the world, the environmental organisation said in a statement.

The area’s high levels of pollution are a direct result of a concentration of coal power plants there, the study found. Eskom has a fleet of 12 coal power stations, all located in the Highveld Priority Area in Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

The government declared the region a “priority area” because of the environmental risk from air pollution there.

The new data shows that the Highveld SO2 emissions are beaten only by the enormous nickel smelters at Norilsk in Russia – one of the 10 most polluted places on Earth according to environmental non-profit organisation, the Blacksmith Institute.

In third place, according to the new NASA data, is an enormous petrochemicals plant at Zargoz in Iran.

According to Greenpeace, power plants and industries which burn oil and gas are responsible for two thirds of SO2 emissions which can be linked to human activity, in the world. Oil refineries and metal smelters – like the one in Russia – are also major sources of SO2.

A previous Greenpeace study also showed that Mpumalanga has one of the world’s highest rates of nitrogen dioxide.

The South African government is already being sued over its alleged failure to act on the toxic air in the Highveld. The lawsuit has been brought by environmental activist group groundWork and Mpumalanga community organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER).

They want the court to declare the air pollution in the area a violation of people’s right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, as enshrined in Section 24 of the Constitution.

As part of that suit, the applicants submitted a new study that showed that Eskom’s coal fleet as well as Sasol’s coal-to-liquids plant in Secunda, and the NatRef refinery in Sasolburg, contributed to the vast majority of air pollution in the Highveld in 2016. These 14 facilities were estimated to have caused between 305 and 650 early deaths in the area in 2016, according to the study. It was conducted by an expert in air pollution, Dr Andy Gray.

This follows another lawsuit in which groundWork, represented by the CER, sued former Minister of Environmental Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane, for trying to double the amount of S02 that coal-fired boilers can emit without public comment.

The notice to change the emissions standards was withdrawn, but re-published for comment in May this year. If passed, it would allow the doubling of SO2 emissions by big coal-burners like Eskom and Sasol from April 1, 2020. Activists say South Africa’s SO2 emissions standards will be 10 times weaker than India’s, and 28 times weaker than China’s, if these plans go ahead.

According to the CER, a recent study conducted by Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at Greenpeace’s Global Air Pollution Unit, shows that about 3 300 premature deaths could be caused by doubling the SO2 standards over time. This would have “profound” health effects, especially on the elderly, children, pregnant women and those who already have illnesses such as asthma and lung disease.

In a statement on Monday, Myllyvirta said: “The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas is the largest source of emissions of SO2, resulting in disastrous air pollution and premature deaths. Clean energy could save billions of dollars in health costs and thousands of lives every year. It’s fundamental that governments rapidly transition away from fossil fuels and set stronger emission standards as they shift over to sustainable alternatives.

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South Africa

Police probe Cape Town suspects found in possession of stolen lion cub

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Police officials from the organised crime investigative unit have been applauded from saving a lion cub that was allegedly held in captivity by a trio of suspects in Cape Town.

How the lion cub made it to Cape Town

According to police spokesperson, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, detectives from the organised crime unit were tipped about a lion cub that had been smuggled into the Western Cape.

It was discovered that the lion cub had been transported from Thabazimbi, a mining town in Limpopo, to Athlone, a low-to-medium income suburb situated on the east side of Cape Town.

Rwexana revealed that, on Wednesday, coordinated effort from the police yielded positive results. A team of operatives were deployed to Athlone, where houses situated in a targeted radius were searched.

Finally, in one of the houses that were searched, police came across the lion cub.

How many suspects have been arrested?

It is believed that three suspects, aged between 28 and 30, have been taken in for questioning by detectives. At this point in time, Rxewana confirmed that:

“A case docket of possession of endangered species was registered by Stock Theft Unit and the lion cub was taken to a place of safety… Three people aged between 28 and 30 were taken in for questioning. The investigation is on-going.”

Based on the police spokesperson’s wording in the statement, we can speculate that no one has been placed under arrest in the case.

What will happen to the lion cub?

The matter rests with the police now, who are chasing up leads to find out how the lion cub made the 1 556km trip to Cape Town. According to Rwexana, the lion cub has been “taken to a place of safety.”

While the sale of lion cubs is not very popular in South Africa, Rwexana estimated that the street value of the young cat is estimated at R50 000.

Lions are considered an endangered species and the private ownership of one is subject to a stringent process that is overseen by the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Nemba)., which stipulates that:

“Selling or otherwise trading in, buying, receiving, giving, donating or accepting as a gift, or in any way acquiring or disposing of any specimen of a listed threatened or protected species; or any other prescribed activity which involves a specimen of a listed threatened or protected species [is prohibited].”

Without an appropriate permit and living quarters, those found in possession of endangered species can face as many as five years in prison.

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Pupils at KwaZulu-Natal high school demand daily smoke breaks

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In a quite bizarre story coming out of Umzinto in KwaZulu-Natal, classes at Roseville Secondary School have been suspended due to protesting students who are demanding, among other things, to be allowed a smoke break.

Protesting students include smoke breaks in their demands

The primary reason for the student protest is grievances with the school administration.

The Mail claims to have an annonymous source who told them learners were upset by rumours the principal was about to be replaced by a “non-African”.

The studends have also demanded that more Zulu-speaking teachers be hired by the school.

However, the move to include a daily smoke break between 08:00 and 09:00 in their demands means they are unlikely to find many sympathic ears to listen to their plight.

“We are not going to be held at ransom by kids. They are supposed to be in class learning, and we will not negotiate with them,” KwaZulu-Natal provincial education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said, according to Times Live.

“They cannot tell us how to run a department. We are not going to allow this kind of behaviour to flourish at schools. We do not promote such behaviour from our learners and we stand firm against anyone who does this.”

Kwazi Mthethwa

Video of student smoking in staff room

According to The Post, the learners even made two videos of their demands and one of them included footage of a student walking through the teacher’s lounge smoking a cigarrette.

“Smoking under the age of 18 is illegal. This is a criminal offence. Pupils seem to have a sense of entitlement and believe they have the right to make these types of demands,” Vee Gani from the KwaZulu-Natal Parents’ Association told the Post.

“This needs to stop. Education in our country is struggling. Pupils need to respect teaching and learning at school.”

Vee Gani

Student’s demands are unlikely to be met

The conversation has already moved way beyond the students demands and is already on what the consequences of their actions will be.

So it appears highly unlikely the protesting students will be placated in this matter.

However, as they are younger than 18, which is the legal smoking age in South Africa, they really do not have a leg to stand on in this case and it boggles the mind trying to figure out how they thought they might get away with it.

“I want to assure concerned parents and guardians that the safety of learners and educators are of paramount importance to the school governing body,” said chairperson Niven Pillay.

“We will work very closely with the department and the manange team of the school to ensure that corrective and preventive action is taken as soon as possible.”

Niven Pillay

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Magashule sues for defamation over ATM claims

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ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has said in court papers that allegations that he was involved in the formation of a rival political party are “completely false” and had led to him being seen as a “sell-out” and “dishonest and treacherous”.

In his court papers, Magashule confirmed that he is currently being investigated by the ANC for possible involvement in the establishment of smaller rival parties before the elections. The investigation followed allegations that he had been consulted about the formation of the African Transformation Movement (ATM); and was even involved in naming the party.

The party was widely reported to have been established as an alternative to a Cyril Ramaphosa-led ANC, with claims of connections to former president Jacob Zuma and Magashule.

The claim that Magashule was involved with the change of name from African Transformation Congress to ATM was made on oath to the Electoral Court by Buyisile Ngqulwana, the former general secretary of the South African Council of Messianic Churches, which was behind the formation of the ATM.

“The allegation is without any factual basis.
It is completely false. In fact, I have never met the first respondent [Ngqulwana] nor have I ever spoken to him,” said Magashule, in an affidavit filed in the Free State division of the high court.

Magashule is suing Ngqulwana for defamation. He wants the court to declare that the allegations are false and to order Ngqulwana to retract them. He wants the court to interdict him from repeating them. Magashule has also claimed R500 000 in damages.

In his affidavit, Magashule said that the first time he had ever heard about Ngqulwana was in the media when it reported the allegations of his involvement in the political party. He said even the ATM party itself — in an affidavit deposed by ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula — had said that the name ATM was adopted at the party’s council.

“There is absolutely no evidence, not a shred, that proves the veracity of Ngqulwana’s claim. It is plainly false; a fib; and invention of Ngqulwana,” Magashule said, adding that the allegations were malicious. He said when he wrote to Ngqulwana demanding a retraction, Ngqulwana responded by insisting that he stood by what he said.

Magashule said the effects of the allegations are “severe”. They have made people question whether he is a traitor and created an impression that he had betrayed the organisation he has served for over 40 years. As secretary-general he had been placed in an “office of trust” in the ANC.

“Trustworthiness and fidelity to the cause of the ANC are indispensable in my ability to lead the organisation. The strength of my office lies in the moral authority i[t] commands of the ANC – if I am accused of being a traitor from within, I am unable to discharge my duties.”

“I have been perceived as a sell-out to the cause of the ANC. Due to Ngqulwana’s defamatory statement, I have been painted as dishonest and treacherous,” he said.

At the time of publication, Ngqulana said he would be opposing the case. He did not want to comment further saying he was still working on his response with his lawyers.

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Rhinos at risk as nature conservationist battles to raise funds

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Mauricedale Nature Estate, 15 kilometres south of the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa, will go under the hammer on September 25, in a final and desperate attempt to save 1,732 white rhinos and secure the future of this near-endangered species for generations to come.

The unabated, unbridled poaching of white rhino to sell their horns on the black market to feed the demand for this product in mostly far eastern countries, has put enormous pressure on the once-thriving southern white rhino population in Southern Africa.

Rhinos at risk

Both private rhino owners and national parks and reserves have fallen victim to ruthless poachers and syndicates that run a lucrative illegal trafficking operation between South Africa and countries where the demand for rhino horn remains very high.

John Hume is trying to raise funds to save his Rhino Project on Buffalo Dream Ranch on the estate, with the estimated value of the Mauricedale property between R490 and R523 million in 2008.

Rhino
John Hume Rhino Project. PHOTO: John Hume

“The estate is an investor’s dream with established accommodation and quality infrastructure located in one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa, covering a highly varied topography including mountains, rivers, plains and low-veld canopy,” said Hume in a press statement.

“The property has first-world telecommunication infrastructure to meet the demands of the approved zoning for future residential development,” Hume explained.

In addition to its vast potential for expansion as a national and international tourism destination, the buyer of Mauricedale Nature Estate will play a key role in securing the future of the iconic white rhino. Hume runs a rhino breeding and rhino horn stockpiling project on a separate property in the North West province.  

Rhino horn traffickers brought to book

The private sector’s involvement and commitment to support rhino breeding programmes can go a long way to rewild or re-introduce rhinos in areas where rhino numbers have declined. It also assists in introducing new bloodlines in existing population groups to ensure healthy rhino off-spring from a diverse gene pool the statement added.

Poaching numbers

*At 769 recorded poaching incidents in South Africa in 2018, poaching numbers are still high and rhino at risk. However, what does this decline mean for rhinos’ future?

In February 2019 the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, released the 2018 poaching numbers. Thankfully, the numbers show a decrease of 259 compared to the previous year (1,028 rhino were poached in 2017).

But this positive sign does not mean they are now thriving, rhinos are at risk. It shows at least two rhinos were killed each day in 2018. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of the poaching crisis is taking its toll, as well as the prolonged drought affecting food and water resources.

Although the recent statistics are encouraging, 2019 has continued to bring news of rhino poaching incidents in South Africa: if the 2018 trend were to continue for 2019, then 88 rhinos could have already been poached this year. In August 2019, the Department of Environmental Affairs announced that 318 rhinos had been poached in the first six months of the year.

The decline in the number of poached rhinos may demonstrate that the anti-poaching work taking place is having an effect, or it may also demonstrate that with significantly fewer rhinos surviving in the wild, it is getting harder for poachers to locate their prey. More action is needed to stop the illegal trade and ensure rhinos have a positive future. This means supporting anti-poaching work, but also good overall management of rhino populations by ensuring high-quality biological management.

*Poaching stats sourced from Save The Rhino.

Additional reporting from ANA – African News Agency edited by Lindiz van Zilla

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Watch: Trevor Noah talks to fellow South African, Nelson Makamo [video]

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South African artist Nelson Makamo recently sat down with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show to talk about his booming career.

Makamo comes from a small town in South Africa where he started making toys when he was a child.

“My foundation with art started from there. I started making toys from clay,” said the artist who is from Modimolle in Limpopo.

He says that during apartheid the choice of what a person could become as a professional was quite limited.

“But, I was fortunate enough to have a mother who truly believed in my talent.”

Makamo’s artwork went on to make it onto the cover of the weekly US magazine Time. He has also held exhibitions in Paris, Edinburgh, and the Netherlands. Makamo’s artwork also made it into the collection of the likes of fashion icon Georgio Armani, singer Annie Lennox and film director Ava Duvenay.

Trevor says that Makamo has become a world-renowned artist over the last couple of years.

“From Alicia Keys and Oprah Winfrey…I mean I remember Oprah telling the story of how she came to your building in South Africa [even though there was no elevator],” jokes Trevor.

Makamo goes on to explain how he made it his mission to portray Africa in a more optimistic light.

“I had to go back and reintroduce how we are as Africans. To say that we are more or less the same as any other person in the world.

“My thing and my view is that …I draw inspiration from the world. The advantage of traveling has made me look at my environment as a source of inspiration as well.

“As a young South African who’s been given the opportunity to rewrite history and reintroduce our image to the world, I had to go back and look at myself and say, ‘If I were to sort of represent ourselves globally, what language would I use?’ I had to actually use a universal language.”

Watch Trevor’s interview with Makamo to find out more about his work and artistic process:

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