South Africa’s new nuclear programme will start in June, according to a report by the City Press.

A confidential document reveals that a formal request for proposals from companies will be issued, with the total contract worth an estimated R1 trillion.

The nuclear deal going forward is directly related to President Jacob Zuma firing finance minister Pravin Gordhan, as Gordhan was against the project, stated the report.

The Sunday Times also reported that Eskom tabled a presentation to the National Treasury indicating it was ready to buy nuclear power two days before Zuma fired Gordhan.

The successful bidder will be appointed in March 2018.

“Ratings agencies Fitch and S&P Global Ratings have cited the nuclear project as one of the reasons for South Africa’s downgrade,” stated the report.

A concern from Treasury officials is that the nuclear plan allows for “turnkey procurement”, which “is often used to hide corruption”.

This allows the management company to appoint all contractors and service providers.

National Treasury recently denied allegations that a nuclear deal was signed by new finance minister Malusi Gigaba, following a post on Facebook by an ANC member.

The member also alleged that Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma would benefit from nuclear plants being built.


Pollution ink

Anirudh Sharma is a Singaporean who has pulled ink from thin air.

Polluted air, to be exact.

For those who haven’t heard of Air-Ink, it’s this nifty invention by Anirudh Sharma (co-founder of Graviky Labs), and it’s the world’s first ink created by collecting soot emitted from vehicles and purifying it into a carbon pigment that can be used to manufacture various types of inks and paints.

So basically, it’s air pollution that’s transformed into ink — and it’s a pretty cool way of contributing to saving the environment.


World War Water

Former World Bank vice-president Ismail Serageldin famously predicted that “the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water”.

But now a plan has emerged to ensure that if violence erupts, it bypasses South Africa. It has been put together by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Boston Consulting Group.

Among the steps suggested in the report are:

  • Water-use compliance and disclosure reporting requirements for JSE-listed companies;
  • Equipping communities with the skills to fix leaks;
  • Strictly enforced penalties for abuse of water; and
  • Incentives for the private sector to save water.

WWF’s senior manager for fresh water, Christine Colvin, said the worst drought for 20 years had taught some harsh lessons.

“Although the Cape is still in the grip of a deepening disaster, a greater danger may be that the floods in the rest of the country wash away the good resolutions to be better prepared and strengthen water governance,” she said.

South Africa would face a water deficit of 17% by 2030, the report said. By then demand for water was expected to have grown from 15-billion cubic metres to 18-billion cubic metres.

Delegates at the Future of Water workshop in January imagined four scenarios:

  1. Ample water across the country but excessive waste due to decaying infrastructure, and a depressed socioeconomic environment;
  2. Adequate water and a booming economy leading to growing demand;
  3. High economic growth but water scarcity due to drought and pollution; and
  4. Severe drought coupled with recession.

Four key goals emerged: becoming a water-conscious country; implementing strong water governance; managing water supply and demand; and becoming “water smart” by commercialising low-water technologies for industry and agriculture.

Drops in the bucket

  • Average annual rainfall is 490mm; the worldwide average is 814mm;
  • Agriculture uses 63% of water, households 26% and industry 11%;
  • 35% of household water is used in gardens, 29% to flush toilets and 13% on laundry;
  • R700-billion is needed to upgrade water infrastructure;
  • 46% of South Africans have a tap at home; and
  • 25% is lost to leaks in municipal systems.

By Dave Chambers for

Going green will cost Eskom

While Eskom has committed to moving towards green energy, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has warned that the process will result in job losses.

The Times reported on Thursday that Brown says 6,000 jobs could be lost should Eskom shut down its four aging coal power stations. Brown was reportedly briefing parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises.

Brown also reportedly says that its plans to buy power from independent power producers could “crash the Eskom balance sheet” over the next two decades.

This was because Eskom would pay these producers more.

Brown says the move to greener energy would have to be carefully managed to make sure that workers were reskilled.

She reportedly says that there were about 1,500 people working at each coal plant, and that they would lose their jobs if they were not reskilled. And Eskom’s environmental compliance obligations would cost R340-billion, which could increase the price of electricity, the portfolio committee heard.

According to the paper, Brown was asked why the country needed nuclear energy if the power utility was worried about excess power generation. She reportedly says that there would be excess of power until 2025 and thereafter, “the economy will pick up and we will need more”.

Waldo Swiegers for


With growing concerns about the environment, office supplies are no exception to the consumer drive for products that promise wellness and sustainability.

More than half of small office and home office consumers buy environmentally friendly office supply products, according to Understanding the Small and Home Office Consumer, the latest report from global information company The NPD Group. That number increases to 76% among those purchasing for an office of 31-50 employees, who have a larger carbon footprint.

“Consumers today are becoming increasingly cognisant of the products they use and food they put into their bodies. With office products also part of everyday life, they are just as important,” said Leen Nsouli, director, office supplies industry analyst, The NPD Group. “The emphasis consumers and marketers are placing on green products presents a big opportunity for revenue and innovation within the office supplies industry.”

Paper products such as notebooks and janitorial supplies are the most popular green supplies purchased, driven by printer/copier paper, paper towels, and cleaning supplies.

Overall, purchasers are pleased with the choice of green products, with nearly 80 percent indicating they are very to extremely satisfied. In particular, green product users like the fact that they are using non-toxic products, and are doing their part to help the environment. At the same time, some feel they lack the quality of non eco-friendly products, and can be expensive.

“Environmentally friendly products are popular among office supplies purchasers; however, there is room for improvement and further development,” said Nsouli. “Manufacturers should take consumer dislikes into consideration, to further capitalize on this trend and get ahead of the competition.”

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Understanding the Small and Home Office Consumer 2016


An online survey was conducted in July 2016 among a U.S. representative sample of males and females age 18 and older. Qualified respondents indicated they work in a home office or for a small business of 50 employees or less, and have responsibility for purchasing office supplies for themselves or their office location.

A simple guide to claiming for hail damage.

Property hail damage

To assist in sorting your insurance claim after a storm, you will need to take the following steps:
First inspect your property to identify any damage caused. Ensure that you take photos for your records. Record the date and time of the hail storm as your insurance company may need to verify the information with the weather bureau.
Be aware of the size of the hailstones as well as the quantity of hail on the ground, your vehicle, roof, patio or any other area of your property. This is important because it indicates the possible level of damage caused. After a storm check for leaks both inside and outside the house – if not attended a leak could lead to more damage and escalated water bills. If you spot damage to shrubs, trees and plants chances are, there will be damage on other areas like the roof, gutters and windows. If you identify any of these problems or if your house is in an emergency situation (leaking roof, broken windows), call your insurance company to identify a local authorized contractor. Find out about Gettysburg gutter advantage of providing you with the quickest, most efficient, and comprehensive gutter cleaning service.

Should your house not be in an emergency situation, find a reputable contractor to inspect your roof for hail damage. This service should be free, so beware of signing anything that holds you to paying for the service. Having an inspection will make your life easier when it comes time to making a claim with your insurance company.

Vehicle hail damage
Do not wait to log your claim. Call your insurance company immediately after the storm to report the damage. The insurance company will recommend a preferred car repair supplier. They will either request an assessment from the supplier or send an assessor to your home to evaluate the damage.

It is always helpful to take photos of the hail damage you can send to your insurer; it also means you have a record of it for future reference. Your insurance company will determine the severity of the damage and consult with you and the car repair supplier on what will make most sense for repairing your vehicle.

Always check your vehicle carefully once it has been repaired if you notice any flaws you should be able to have it fixed at no additional charge. It’s also important to check with the repair shop if they offer a guarantee on their work and will repair any areas they may have missed at no additional cost.

Top tips to avoid damage

  • The start of the rainy season is the ideal time to ask professional roofers to check your roof for damage or weak spots that will leave it vulnerable to the next hailstorm.
  • Keep your gutters clear of leaves, and make sure all gutters can lead large quantities of water to a drain.
  • If you have glass doors install storm doors and shutters on the exterior to protect them from damage. If you cannot afford this, replace glass doors with wooden doors or install rails outside the windows with rolled-up plastic sheeting that can be rolled down in the event of a storm.
  • Download the WeatherSA app which will assist you in proactively monitoring possible storm conditions.
  • Hail causes more damage to moving vehicles due to the speed at which both the car and the hailstones move; ensure you plan your trips so you don’t have to drive during hailstorms, alternatively if you are on the road at the time of a hailstorm find a safe place to take shelter until the storm eases.

Claiming from your insurance

  • Having all your records on hand will help you go through the process smoothly.
  • Once you’ve submitted your claim, your insurance will send an assessor to your home to assess the financial damage.
  • It’s not uncommon that the estimated payout ends up being less than the invoiced amount. This would be dependent on the amount you are covered for.
  • Contact your insurance supplier to find out if you are covered for home and vehicle insurance and know the value of your insurance as well as any excess payable.

Despite efforts by businesses to go green, busy offices still generate a lot of paperwork. What many high-functioning businesses don’t know is that reams of paper actually reduce business efficiency and increase costs. As businesses are thrust into the digital space, analysts predict the arrival of the paperless office – yet more and more paper is produced every year.

Working intelligently with documents is a critical factor in reducing paper waste. It’s much more than well-organised storage and quick searches – it’s about creating secure and efficient processes. So what are the benefits of digital documents? Here’s how businesses can digitise and reduce paper to run more efficiently:

Let go of old-school
Paper storage isn’t secure or safe. Documents are susceptible to theft and vulnerable to external damage, such as fire and water. It’s also difficult to track physical documents as retrieving them takes time. The sharing and distribution of hard copies is highly impractical as information is limited to the confines of the document.

Better business
Digital documents are easier to store and send, easily searchable and more versatile than paper. Paperwork on desks and shelves isn’t just untidy, it’s inefficient too.

The beauty of digital storage is an entire company’s documents can be stored on a single server instead of endless rooms of shelving. If there’s a fire or flood, recovery from digital backup is effortless. Digital filing also means costs saved on printing and postage. A paperless office allows for easier expansion, as moving is seamless and efficient.

The paperless solution
Nashua’s Docuware and NashuaDocs help organisations gain control over their information and data. Managed Document Services (MDS) digitise crucial documents and help automate internal business processes. This is a customisable solution designed for fast document storage, retrieval, enhanced efficiency and optimised business processes.

This software reduces the time spent searching for, printing, copying and labelling documents by simplifying document-related tasks in the office. Both Nashua solutions are tailor-made for current and future business requirements. They allow for seamless workflow and boosted productivity.

Going paperless doesn’t happen overnight. Businesses can strategise to reduce paper, together with a Nashua consultant. Cutting paper use also gives modern businesses flexibility to operate from anywhere, and faster access to information needed. Piles of paperwork belong in the past. The future is digital.

In many ways paper is the perfect example of the circular economy; it is both an end product and the main raw material when recycled into the next generation of products.

In order for the paper sector to remain profitable – especially important given the recent surge in raw material prices – recycling must be made as operationally efficient as possible and able to create innovative new products of higher value than before.

One key challenge to this has been determining the overall efficiency of the recycling process from start to finish. Current tools can determine, say how efficient a recycling plant is processing raw material at any one given time, but achieving a global picture of the entire process has been difficult to capture. The EU REFFIBRE project, which hosted its final conference in September 2016, has developed new tools to achieve exactly this.

Achieving recycling efficiencies will have significant – and positive – business implications for the paper sector. The policy and consumer-driven shift towards a bio-based economy (and away from a fossil fuel-based one) has had the knock-on effect of increasing demand for tree-based raw materials from sectors like energy, which has in turn driven up prices.

The project’s concept is that by gathering information on the potential impact of new processes, raw material input and product innovations – and combining this information with key processing data – paper makers will be equipped to make the most informed decisions on how to run their operations as efficiently as possible.

REFFIBRE began by identifying and then testing various production and process modelling tools. As raw material selection and stock preparation can influence pulp properties, tools for predicting this have been developed. This means that key parameters, such as the Mean Fibre Age (number of times a fibre has been used before entering a paper mill) and the Mean Number of Uses (number of times a fibre will be used after leaving the paper mill), can now be calculated.

REFFIBRE partners have also worked on tools to help paper makers take into full consideration issues such as the impact on energy use outside the paper mill, and what happens if reduced quality recycling material is fed into the process. These tools were then tested under real processing conditions, and the results of each case study combined into a practical guide targeted at industry decision makers. In addition, it is expected that the results will be used to further develop industry standards.

Achieving recycling efficiencies is one way that the pulp and paper industry can mitigate raw material price increases, and at the same time reduce its environmental impact. There is a significant business opportunity here; Europe paper fibre is recycled an astounding 3.5 times a year; world-wide the average is 2.4 times. The recycling rate in Europe reached 71.7 % in 2012. All this strongly suggests that the infrastructure for paper recycling is already in place. And now, thanks in part to the REFFIBRE project, so is the technology.


A Cape furniture designer is recycling discarded cellar items into pieces of masterfully crafted furniture by breathing new life into old wine barrels.

For the past 17 years, Vinwood has been crafting unique indoor and outdoor furniture from reclaimed French oak, sourced from the winelands of the Western Cape where it was once used as wine barrels and casks. The furniture gives homes a welcoming ambience with Vinwood’s simplistic, functional yet timeless designs.

“The casks and tanks that we salvage date from the past two centuries and we preserve the character of these giants by carefully incorporating the markings and numbering on the staves left by the craftsman who made these items decades ago. The barrel, and stave numbers can be seen on the edges of our Reserve Range tables, making each piece a collector’s item,” says CEO Jianni Geras.

Vinwood’s manufacturing process relies largely on skilled labour, as the nature of the curved barrel timber demands hand selection and hand crafting.

Encapsulating the history and romance of the wine that the wood used to cradle within it, wineries such as Spier, Boschendal, Bilton, Devonvale, Whalehaven, Jordan and Zorgvliet have commissioned Vinwood for unique pieces of furniture.

“Green living is a big trend in South Africa and identifying a gap for unique items which become conversation starters, together with looking remarkable in the home makes our furniture a logical solution,” Geras says.

“We take pride in the fact that 90% of our material is re-cycled timber and from an environmentally sustainable source. The 10% new oak that we use is also from sustainable forests in North America, although it is not recycled wood.”

The large range consists of patio and cellar furniture, coffee tables, lounge and occasional seats, dining room tables and chairs, high chairs, as well as kitchen accessories.

In the five years to May 2016, SA’s electricity use fell 6%, leaving a substantial and growing hole in Eskom’s budget. Eskom’s response has been to try to suppress new competitors and encourage big new customers. In a single week in July, it announced:

• It was negotiating with aluminium smelters to increase electricity use. Aluminium smelting in SA is predicated on access to cheap, (but dirty) energy;

• It would not accept further independent renewable producers after the current round of tenders because of the potential effect on its revenue. The share of private renewable energy in national demand rose from 4% in 2011, to 8% in 2016;

• It was trying to expand exports to the region in light of slow domestic demand.

The first two strategies will entrench commodity dependence and promote energy intensity. Instead of fostering growth in new industries and emerging enterprises, they will reinforce Eskom’s effective partnership with huge metal refineries.

Eskom’s dilemma is rooted in the end of the commodity boom, combined with a pricing strategy that is delinked from national goals around diversification and development. The recent commodity boom was an outlier. Yet SA’s electricity investment and pricing systems built in an assumption that metal prices would defy gravity for decades.

From 2008 to 2015, huge new coal-fuelled plants were initiated, while electricity tariffs in constant rand more than doubled. Below the radar, there’s a widely held belief that Eskom’s tariff hikes mostly reflected inefficiency and corruption. That view ignores both the cost of Eskom’s new investments and the soaring price of coal during the commodity boom.

This is not to deny inefficiency at Eskom. For instance:

• Eskom links the price of electricity for the smelters to the aluminium price, so it has in effect given them about tens of billions in rebates since the commodity boom ended;

• From 2008 to 2014, while its sales fell, Eskom’s employment climbed from 35,000 to 47,000;

• From 2014-15 to 2015-16, the remuneration of Eskom directors and group executives climbed from R50m to R75m.

Eskom’s model of increasing electricity supply and tariffs together clashed with global metal prices. Today, Eskom is in the midst of investments of more than R100bn in Medupi and Kusile even as the energy-intensive industries are downsizing.

Consider the steel industry. From 2007 to 2015, SA’s steel production fell about 30%. Virtually the entire decline resulted from the closure of electric furnaces, where production dropped by about half. Climbing electricity costs encourage a shift away from energy-intensive production even as Eskom races to increase its output.

Two factors shape Eskom’s response to its new realities.

First, it seems to know only how to build big plants, whether coal or nuclear. In 2013, the update report on the Integrated Resource Plan for electricity proposed a simple answer to managing uncertain demand: look to smaller plants that would enable more flexible responses. Instead, Eskom has forged ahead with giant projects, then sought to manage demand, alternating rationing and subsidies for the refineries.

Second, Eskom faces sometimes contradictory socioeconomic demands conjoined with a single hard financial requirement: it is required by law to remain self-sufficient and creditworthy. It is also expected to get electricity to poor communities; stabilise the supply to industry; provide a market and transmission for renewable energy projects in remote areas; and drive the construction of base load plants. Meanwhile, its prices are regulated through a complex, rigid and slow process without visible strategic aims.

In these circumstances, Eskom has tended to externalise costs wherever it can and to pursue socioeconomic imperatives only when they won’t damage cash flow. It’s hard to manage Eskom. The company knows far more about electricity than anyone in the government or civil society. Faced with a policy that it doesn’t want, it can argue that the result will be a blackout. Moreover, it habitually blames regulators or government officials when things go wrong.

But SA will pay a high price if we let Eskom respond to the looming oversupply by pumping out more energy for smelters and cutting support for renewables and energy efficiency.

If SA is serious about clean development and industrialisation, it should insist that any excess supply is used to encourage new industries, not to expand existing refineries, and that future electricity investment is small, decentralised and clean.

By Dr Neva Makgetla for
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