Climate change: SA response ‘groundbreaking’. Read this new book from Idasa

When it comes to Climate Change the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do is vast. Developing a plan to get us from where we are to where we need to be is now one of the most important tasks of modern society.

In this, South Africa was an early leader, and it approached the question in a remarkable way. The South African Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) is an internationally celebrated example of how people can come together to work with the evidence to develop the questions of the day.

What was remarkable was not only the scientific rigour adopted, but the way in which leaders worked together to reach a broad consensus. Their vision, and the response of the South African government, was groundbreaking and extraordinarily ambitious. The LTMS has quietly reshaped the South African landscape.

This book is the story of the people and the process by which they took up the challenge and produced these Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios.

See more information here.

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SA is torn between secrecy and transparency

SA is capable of sustaining two narratives. One, which provoked a Financial Times editorial suggesting the Protection of Information Bill represents the path to Zimbabwe, is cloaked in secrecy. The competing narrative — the one of transparency — was enhanced with the unveiling of the 2010 Open Budget Index, an international survey that measures countries’ transparency and openness in budget information and access. Second last year, SA has now made it to the top of the pile — something that should be earmarked as the standard to be followed in all areas of public and corporate life.

See the full story here.

ANSA-Africa hosts series of public dialogues on Extractive Industries and Natural Resource Management

ANSA-Africa hosts series of public dialogues on Extractive Industries and Natural Resource Management as the starting point for targeted in-country action as well as building the foundation for networking across borders towards an Africa-wide movement. The talks are intended to create a platform for sharing of experiences on extractive industries and natural resource management, as well as investigating their effects on the economy, the environment and communities. Read more here.

Corruption fight comes under global spotlight

Corruption in Zambia was under the spotlight as the head of Idasa’s Economic Governance Programme, Richard Calland, recently spoke about corruption in the construction sector. Read full article here.

Zuma should play by the rules

“We should not have to be dragooned into setting high standards in public life. We should willingly seek maximum openness about what our public representatives do, and receive.” These words are as true today as they were in 1996, when senior African National Congress member Kader Asmal said them.
Intrinsically connected with the advent of a democratically elected Parliament was an attempt to build a culture of integrity among elected representatives. A code of ethics was drawn up for MPs and members of the executive to declare their assets. In Parliament, an ethics committee was set up to further increase accountability. The watchwords were transparency, accountability and openness.
The codes of ethics for both MPs and the executive clearly envisage that elected representatives not “expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and their private interests” or use their public positions for private gain.
In addition, the codes clearly state that interests that must be disclosed include shares, sponsorships, gifts, benefits, foreign travel and land. The code governing the executive clearly states that even liabilities must be disclosed, as well as the interests of spouses and dependent children.
When the codes were put in place, the emphasis was on building a culture of accountability and ensuring elected representatives and officials “did the right thing”. The central aim was never really punitive, but preventative.
In 2003, Idasa released a report titled Ethics in Post-apartheid SA, outlining the difficulties in the ethics regime and its often patchy implementation. Scrutinising the records of cabinet disclosures at the Union Buildings proved difficult and it was never clear how extensive executive declarations actually were. Again in 2006 the auditor-general reported that “declarations of interest by ministers, deputy ministers and government employees” was cause for concern. Also, the Public Service Commission found that, on the face of it, 14 out of 20 ministers and most deputy ministers had not disclosed their financial interests, as required in terms of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act and pursuant codes.
It is therefore cause for concern that it appears that President Jacob Zuma has not yet disclosed his financial interests as required by law. The usual practice is that the secretary to cabinet monitors disclosure. In terms of the Executive Members Ethics Act as well as the related Executive Ethics Code, members of the cabinet must disclose all financial interests and liabilities as well as those of their spouses and dependent children, within 60 days of assuming office. Zuma is therefore in breach of the law.
The main aim of the legislation is to prevent blatant conflicts of interests which result in personal gain trumping the interests of the country. That the Presidency does not seem concerned about this breach of the rules is not only undesirable but sets an unhealthy precedent. Why should ordinary MPs or ministers disclose their assets if the president has failed to do so?
Despite what appears to be obfuscation by Zuma’s advisers, there is no ambiguity about the law — he must disclose. During the trial of Schabir Shaik, the president’s former financial adviser, information about Zuma’s then chaotic financial affairs came to light. Recently there have been reports of one of Zuma’s wives benefiting from a catering contract in KwaZulu-Natal and questions were raised regarding the allocation of the contract . It thus becomes a source of discomfort when the president appears casual about disclosure, when the rules state clearly that this ought to have happened .
If elected representatives do not follow the rules of disclosure of financial interests, the public’s right to know is blunted. Zuma has made much about the need for a “moral code” and a discussion about morality. It is probably undesirable for him to try to initiate this type of discussion. All citizens really expect of their elected representatives is to provide leadership and to adhere to the rules of the game. If Zuma wants to provide more leadership, the ethics disclosure forms would be a place to start.

First published in Business Day

Mining – how civil society sees it

– By Martine Roberts –

While the global elite of mining professionals gathered for their annual Mining Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from the  1st – 4th of Feb 2010, a network of civil society organisations, including Idasa, hosted an Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) of their own.

The Mining Indaba attracts mining analysts and investors as well as government actors from around the world to discuss the newest developments in the industry. Attendance is limited to professional investors and the industry, effectively excluding the communities in which mining takes place.
The Alternative Mining Indaba, which took place just a stone’s throw from the CTICC, was hosted by a number of civil society organisations including: Economic Justice Network (EJN), Benchmarks Foundation, ESSET, Afrodad, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Idasa, supported by religious leaders from Southern Africa. Reverend Malcolm Damon, executive director of EJN, made opening remarks, which captured the objectives of the event; “We want to create a platform for the communities and share stories of the atrocities perpetrated by the mining industry. We want to say that we are watching you.” The reverend did however also emphasise that constructive engagement with government and companies is absolutely necessary to strengthen policies and improve conditions for communities affected by mining activities.
Guest speaker, Archbishop Ndungane, highlighted the dilemmas of natural resource extraction by emphasising that “the only point of integration of SADC economies into the global economy has been, and remains, through the export of natural resources. Despite all the abundance of natural resources, citizens of SADC are among the poorest in the world, meaning that the management of resources has not been beneficial to the ordinary people.” He continued highlighting the fact that governments had failed to protect their citizens as “…human rights is the baseline expectation. Companies cannot compensate for human rights harm by performing good deeds elsewhere. These gross human rights atrocities that are a result of irresponsible mining practices should not be allowed to continue, not on our watch.”
Testimonies were given by community members from the Moroke and Mokopane communities in Limpopo and Luka in Rustenburg. These areas hold some of the richest reserves of platinum in the world and attract major mining companies like Anglo Platinum and Implats. The stories from the communities painted a very different picture to what the mining industry likes to portray. Evidence was given of unethical mining practices including, but not limited to: serious ecological damage, relocation, disruption of heritage sites, lack of economic benefits, and destruction of livelihoods.
The Royal Bafokeng case in Rustenburg is seen as a shining example of corporate accountability with the Traditional Authorities owning shares in the mining companies. However, no significant wealth distribution is taking place and the community exert little or no control over their resources. “The control of the resources is in the hands of the few. The decision making system is flawed. Decisions are made from the top and trickling down to the bottom. It’s not a bottom up approach. The community has no control on making decisions around their wealth. Consultations are being done with consultants and some elites but when the bigger meetings are held, the decisions are already taken,” explained Eric Mokoua from the Luka Environmental Forum.
The testimonies were supported by Brown Motsau, project manager at Benchmarks Foundation, who pointed to research which reveals the secrecy surrounding mining contracts and government revenues generated from these agreements. The lack of transparency and access to information poses one of the most serious challenges in terms of the ability of civil society and citizens to hold government and mining companies to account.
The Alternative Mining Indaba demanded that the UN Declaration on Free, Prior and Informed Consent is adopted and implemented. Communities should be properly informed about the consequences of mining and be free to decide whether or not they will allow mining activities in their area. If and when the communities welcome mining companies, the principles of transparency, accountability and participation should always guide the interaction between them.

Eskom – we need a public conversation

By Richard Calland and Gary Pienaar

Picking holes in the governance of electricity supply, and energy policy more generally, is like shooting fish in a barrel. Whether it is the development and sequencing of key policy documents, the absence of proper stakeholder consultation, leadership failure, or the lack of clarity about intragovernmental roles and responsibilities, there are more hooks on which to hang a public debate than in a cloakroom — as a new analysis of electricity governance reveals.

Putting aside for the moment the unseemly recent tussle over the leadership of the state-owned entity, Eskom, the immediate issue is pricing. The National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) could face a difficult choice in coming weeks — whether it should proceed with its scheduled consideration of Eskom’s second m ultiy ear p rice d etermination (MYPD2) tariff-increase application.

Eskom’s initial application asked for a 45% electricity price increase in each of the three years covered by the MYPD2. Subsequent pressure from all quarters led to Eskom announcing yesterday that it would submit a revised request for 35%.

After MYPD1 lapsed, and without an agreed funding model for Eskom, Nersa has, in the past few years, approved interim electricity tariff increases.

Eskom’s current application accepts that a funding model for the electricity utility is a fundamental prerequisite to its ability to plan efficiently to undertake infrastructure maintenance, build new generation capacity, develop clean energy supplies, or purchase imported electricity or from independent power producers. It remains unclear, however, whether this process has been concluded and, if so, what it looks like.

Equally fundamental, and required by the Energy Act of 2008, is a clear and comprehensive national integrated resource plan (IRP) that sets out a 20-year plan for the country’s energy future. This plan is intended to determine Eskom’s priorities and choices, including the selection of the appropriate technologies to meet energy demand.

Though some in the government see the IRP more as a vision-like document — offering thoughts on the general energy mix that would be desirable, for example — than a precise roadmap, it is in the nature of such a longer-term plan that it will entail immediate choices with long-term consequences.

Yet it is precisely such a choice that Eskom’s MYPD2 application asks us to make now — without this plan. Crucially, before finalising the plan, the act requires the energy minister to engage in a public consultation process. So far, she has not done so. On the contrary, a draft plan reportedly prepared by Eskom and submitted to the government last month, remains a secret.

Eskom’s application recognises three important things about the reasonableness or otherwise of its tariff increase request. First, is the existence and adequacy of the funding model. Second, what it terms a “country debate and country choices” on SA’s future energy security.

But, third, the main driver of its desired price increase is its plan to build primarily coal-fired power stations. However, the costs of this coal-driven “new build” plan are premised on a pre-emption of the broad, open “country debate” that the application accepts is necessary. The product of that debate, a legitimate and lawful IRP, does not exist.

To the extent that any decision by Nersa on the MYPD2 fails to allow this debate to take place, it may be open to a legal challenge as not following a lawful process intended to give life to the constitutional right to just and reasonable administrative action contained in section 33 of the Bill of Rights.

Additionally, the piecemeal nature of the information placed by Eskom in the public domain could render meaningless the right to informed public consultation.

Analysts are saying Eskom’s application is also premised on assumptions of questionable accuracy and plausibility, backed by little explanation, which is raising concerns in the Treasury. For example, recovering the costs of proposed new infrastructure is contingent on Eskom’s projected increasing levels of electricity sales at these new high prices.

Nersa’s “Issues Paper” inviting public comment questions whether Eskom’s plan reflects an appropriate use of resources raised through the tariff increase.

Thus, Eskom’s demand projections apparently fail to take adequate account of the cheapest and quickest way to ensure SA has adequate electricity to avoid rolling blackouts, and to allow economic growth and advance equitable access: incentives for existing consumers to improve energy efficiency and to reduce their demand for grid electricity.

One way to reduce electricity use, and create jobs, is to implement the government’s stated plan to install a million solar water heaters. This option seems not to be given much consideration in Eskom’s application.

Moreover, while Eskom’s application proposes increasing the f ree b asic e lectricity allowance to 70KwH/m, it fails to come to grips with how to ensure that those that have the least resources but the greatest needs can afford electricity, while those who use the most and profit the most, pay the most.

The implications are that South Africans are being asked to approve a plan that requires very significant price increases, but which is not based on a comprehensive and cohesive set of least-cost or environmentally responsible choices, and with no proper consideration of price-differentials.

Eskom declines to disclose significant portions of its reasoning on the questionable basis that it is “commercially” confidential. But clear authority exists requiring public disclosure of substantial summaries that protect legitimate confidentiality, while making public participation and comment a meaningful — and legally compliant — exercise.

So, for example, we don’t know what Eskom has agreed to pay companies that supply coal to its power stations. The contracts are secret. How, then should one assess whether Eskom’s requested tariff increase is based a fair price paid to its suppliers and a fair price to be paid by electricity users?

With so many gaps in the information publicly available, meaningful public participation in Nersa’s consideration of Eskom’s application is almost impossible, so that the process may be of questionable legality.

If the contents of Eskom’s MYPD2 application are anything to go by, the IRP has the potential to predetermine our future in significant ways. These two documents/processes signal important decisions that will have long-term consequences.

Much like the arms deal, but significantly more expensive, they have the potential to lock South Africans into paying dearly for Eskom’s apparently oversimplified plan that seems inadequate to meet the country’s energy needs, and its national and global environmental responsibilities. Unless we get the governance right — and quickly — we will all be paying for hasty, poorly constructed decisions for decades to come.

What we need now, as a matter of urgency, is a multi-stakeholder process — as former Eskom chairman Bobby Godsell suggested recently — to enable us to have a “joined up” national conversation about energy policy and sustainable development.

– Calland is director of Idasa’s Economic Governance Programme, which convenes the multi-stakeholder Electricity Governance Initiative of SA (EGI-SA), and associate professor in public law at UCT. Pienaar is senior researcher: public ethics and governance. The EGI-SA’s report on electricity governance will be published in next month.

First published in Business Day