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Trade Winds weekly update volume 15

Tensions flare at Beitbridge, following weeks of up and down madness at the Beitbridge Border Post drivers have finally said enough is enough!  Over the past week, the queue going north at Beitbridge has grown, with reports emerging of corrupt police officials soliciting R500-R1000 bribes but the drivers are now pushing back.

From early morning on Tuesday this week, video footage emerged of truckers blocking the path of another truck being escorted by police to the front of the queue, the drivers confronted the official insisting the truck return to the back of the queue. This is not an isolated incident.

The queue is currently sitting around the 16km mark in advance of the potential shutdown.

Maersk resumes operations at CT Northbound, Strategies to reduce the backlog at the Port of Cape Town are bearing fruit, with Maersk announcing that it will resume calls at the port on the northbound rotation of the South Africa Europe Container Service (Saecs).

Due to prolonged delays at the port caused by Covid-19 staff shortages, Maersk announced in June that it had decided to bypass Cape Town on the Saecs rotation between Durban and the Port of Algericas (WAF1).

However, in a customer advisory notice released yesterday, Maersk said: “Waiting time in Cape Town terminal has decreased significantly which has allowed us to review our Saecs product.”

“We are pleased to inform you that we will revert back to Cape Town with our Saecs northbound call and resume WAF1 in Port Elizabeth to cover the Eastern Cape market to Europe.”

The shipping line will however continue to bypass the Cape Town southbound and there will be no change to import routings to Port Elizabeth and Durban.

Slump in production, Anglo America’s platinum production slumped by 25% in the first half of 2020 due to the lockdowns imposed in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.

It was also stated that total refined production including tolling declined by 46% to 1,246,900 ounces as the temporary closure of ACP and load-shedding in the first quarter impacted production.

Whilst things look a little bleak on the platinum side, Gold’s record run to almost $2,000 an ounce has burnished cash flows and driven a surge in shares of bullion producers. The rally provides a renewed test of discipline for Barrick Gold Corp. and peers after a similar climb a decade ago prompted a spate of inflated deals and overly optimistic investments that wasted billions.

For gold-mining companies, this is great news, with costs contained even after pandemic-related closures, virtually all are churning out impressive cash. In the first three months, Toronto-based Barrick alone generated $438 million in free cash flow based on a realized price of not far off $1,600, compared to $146 million a year earlier. 

Valuations look better too, especially for the sector’s largest players.

Power constraints choking sectors, South Africa continues to face electricity woes and there does not seem to be any light at the end of this tunnel.

Earlier in the year newly elected CEO of Eskom, André de Ruyter, positively said that there would only be three days of load shedding this winter however after three weeks of constant load shedding various sectors within the country are feeling the effects, especially the steel sector, this coupled with the impact of COVID and the never ending steel price increases which have now become a back to back pattern, the industry faces serious challenges with high prices, high demand but low output as the lockdown and electricity issues puts strain on production.

So far this year we have seen steel increase on average by 15-20%  with rumours of further increases monthly throughout the remainder of 2020.

“Don’t Let Yesterday Take Up Too Much of Today”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 14

Chirundu 24/7, One of, if not, the most problematic borders on the important North-South Corridor into the copper belt area of Zambia and the DRC last night, told the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) that it was open on a 24/7 basis. This comes after previous investigations earlier in the year showed that the border could and should operate at 24 hours seven days a week.

However, the investigations earlier in the year were not actually meant for the border to operate at this level but rather to identify challenges preventing the Zambezi crossing between Zimbabwe and Zambia from returning to previously established OSBP (One Stop Border Post) systems and services.

Mike Fitzmaurice, CEO of FESARTA said the following: “We looked at what it would take to make things work and spoke to officers and customs officials. We found that there’s enough will to make it work and received commitment from all parties concerned to solve Chirundu’s congestion issues.”

The 24/7 decision is effective immediately – and while 24/7 operations were still at a tentative stage, the remainder of the year would be used to fine-tune legal-technical aspects of the OSBP.

Fitzmaurice said it was reassuring that the recommendations made to Zimra and the ZRA following January’s fact-finding mission had been taken to heart, and that it was hoped Chirundu would in time be restored to the OSBP it used to be about 10 years ago.

Congestion strikes Beitbridge again, earlier in the week queues stretching around 8kms formed again south of Beitbridge as ZIMRA has ramped up their game on preventing groceries bought in South Africa being smuggled north across the border. The queue had reduced a bit as earlier in the week it was reported to be around 12Kms however frustrations are still mounting, according to reports ZIMRA officials are searching each and every truck.

There has also been reports of police taking this opportunity to exploit drivers of a reported R500 to jump the queue.

In addition to Zimra’s decision to tighten up on truck checking, staff working for the revenue authority also decided to embark on a go-slow for reasons unexplained.

Another growing concern is the safety of the drivers and in fact other road users, the drivers don’t get to sleep for around 2 days as the queue slowly crawls and once they have been released the drivers are extremely tired and exhausted from not having a good nights rest, thus putting potential dangers to themselves and other road users.

Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) has been in contact with ZIMRA officials in a bid to clear the congestion.

“There are better ways to deal with smuggling. Checking each and every truck causes massive delays and forces drivers to sit in their trucks for days waiting to get through the border. By the time they finally get through they’re unfit to drive.” Fitzmaurice said.

This is just adding further pressure to all parties involved, drivers are missing deadlines, hauliers are being charged demurrage and projects on the receiving end are being delayed.

JUST IN! following yesterday’s announcement of the 6pm-6am curfew, the slow chug of traffic through Zimra’s facility has been slowed even more, especially because the Documents Processing Centre (DPC) is only working 12 hours a day.

“In other words you have a 24-hour border with the DPC only running for half that,” said Mike Fitzmaurice, chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta).

Earlier Fitzmaurice said Zimra was currently only managing about 30 trucks and hour, yet around 1000 trucks head to that border every day.

At the going rate it means only some 360 trucks are processed and cleared daily, while more and more trucks join the growing queue.

Zimra has just advised that the situation at the DPC centres was being addressed with government. But in view of the curfew introduced yesterday as an emergency restriction to curb the spread of the virus they had no choice but to comply.

They are appealing the ruling to allow DPC to continue working 24 hours but can give no time frame to the resolution of the situation.

Freight industry on its knees, As the industry continues to battle the full extent of Covid-19, the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff) has provided stats that reveal the extent of the damage.

Saaff estimates that local importers are facing around R1.4 billion in storage and demurrage costs accumulated during level-5 lockdown and more than 20 000 containers piling up in storage facilities whilst continued border congestions add to this burden.

“Road freight in this country is on its knees,” says Marcus Ellappan, director of road freight for Bidvest International Logistics (BIL). “There’s a regional imbalance of freight due to the decline in the economy, which means hauliers are battling to generate revenue, let alone operate profitably, especially on return loads. The protests by truck drivers against the hiring of foreign nationals are impacting utilisation of assets, which also impacts negatively on profitability. Some hauliers are now downsizing fleets as trucks stand idle, and with that jobs are being lost.”

COVID compliance is another nail in the coffin for the freight industry whilst the increase of PPE hijackings adds more pressure.

Light at the end of the tunnel, DRC announced that the state of emergency has been lifted, people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are slowly resuming normal activities in the wake of Covid-19 health emergency.

President Tshisekedi has ordered a three-stage reopening of business activities, schools, and borders.

In a televised address late on Tuesday, President Felix Tshisekedi announced an end to the Covid-19 health emergency enforced since 24 March.

This involved closing DRC’s borders with nine neighbouring countries, as well as shutting down schools, bars and restaurants.

Tshisekedi said that, from Wednesday 22 July, all shops, banks, restaurants, cafes, firms and bars would be allowed to reopen. Public transport can resume, and large gatherings will be permitted.

Back on Track, The Port of Cape Town is making headway in addressing its congestion challenges and is well on track clawing back lost ground.

Following staff shortages, lockdown congestions and backlogs, rough seas and stormy weather the port is back on track. 

Information shared earlier revealed that at the Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT) five vessels were in roadstead and that there were six vessels waiting to be worked. That figure is at least half of what it once was, when up to 12 vessels could be seen at anchorage, waiting for much-delayed berthing slots.

There are still gangs serving the terminal and the target of 2500 moves per day was smashed yesterday when at least 3200 moves were recorded. This is great news for the port.

The Multi-Purpose Terminal (MPT) too is doing well, with two mobile cranes and six straddle carriers in full operation.

At the time of this morning’s stakeholder session, three vessels had been worked and delays are said to be only two days.

“A champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 13

Transport strike, following last weeks’ violent strikes and protests, things have calmed down this week, the All Truck Drivers’ Foundation (ATDF) has said it is suspending protest activities against foreign nationals working in South Africa’s road freight industry, there are rumours on the ground that a potential transport strike is still on the cards, however there is no confirmation from any reliable sources at this stage, following on this there has been bad weather on the N1 between Hanover and Richmond has been badly affected by a thick blanket of snow covering the upper Karoo.

Trucks who were forced to break suddenly jack knifed, there were reports of a few collisions too due to the ice on the roads.

Some industry representatives believe the weather has forced the ATDF’s hand in the matter, bringing welcome respite to transporters from the violent unrest seen on the country’s roads last week.

Cold Weather halts Cape Town Port’s streak, Efforts to claw back lost throughput at the Port of Cape Town following Covid-related essential staff shortages and subsequent cargo processing delays have been set back by the stormy weather that made landfall this past Monday.

The projected backlog clearance by end July is no longer feasible as bad weather continues to pummel the port. The latest projection is now early August.

The Multi-Purpose Terminal has been affected by swells and bad weather which only allowed one vessel to be worked so far. There has been swells recorded as high as 13 meters since the beginning of the week. There were 10 vessels awaiting berthing slots, nine had to lift anchors and retreat to safer waters.

The port itself was affected by seven-metre swells coming in, affecting quay-side vessels and necessitating immediate intervention from port personnel.

Five vessels had been unable to enter the port – and by noon Tuesday berthing was still on hold.

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said it would continue to test the swells and would allow vessels to enter the port once it was safe to do so.

Level 3.5?, this past Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa added new regulations to the already on going Level 3 of South Africa’s lockdown. Again, Alcohol has been prohibited which has been a major talking point, this not only affects the country’s already struggling economy but has also put a direct stop to South Africa’s wine exports. With the selling and distribution of alcohol being prohibited the transport has been banned too thus not allowing any of South Africa’s famous wines being shared around the world. Tobacco is still a no go; however, the export of tobacco has been allowed, this itself is a positive and hopefully can give the economy an extra life line.

ZMDC begins coal exploration, The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation has started coal and methane gas exploration in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province. Some years ago, the government allocated the parastatal two Special Grants to explore coal and methane gas.

“ZMDC found investors for the Special Grants and have since signed a joint venture agreement and now the investor is doing exploration.” Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura said.

The project is a massive investment that would significantly transform Zimbabwe’s economy in sync with Vision 2030 where the government aims to achieve an upper-middle-income economy status.

The development of the Lupane coal-bed methane gas project has the potential to boost the country’s energy generation capacity. Zimbabwe requires an additional 9000MW of electricity to achieve an upper-middle-income by 2030 and currently, the country’s demand for power is around 2000MW.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 12

Transport violence, following growing concerns over the past week of a possible strike, violence has rocked the transport industry, mainly the focus is on local hauliers that a sporting foreign drivers. On Monday the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI) managed to win a court interdict preventing the All Truck Drivers’ Foundation (ATDF) and the SA National Cargo Transport Association (Sancatra) from fomenting xenophobic violence.

A statement issued by the bargaining council’s national secretary, Musa Ndlovu, said the court had granted the NBCRFLI an interdict against the ATDF and Sancatra, preventing them from “organising, encouraging and inciting any other person to participate in protest action or ‘national shutdown’ against the employment of foreign nationals in the road freight and logistics industry on 7 July 2020 or at any other time thereafter”.

However, this unfortunately did not deter some protesters as quite a number of vehicles have been attacked and torched in the process, there were a few “hotspots” in Johannesburg that resulted in freight companies closing their depots.  

Fesarta released the following message they had received: “Attention all SADC truck drivers – South Africa must fall now.

“Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, DRC, Nigeria, Tanzania, Swaziland – from Friday, 10 July, no South African-registered trucks are to cross any of these countries.”

The message calls for drivers from neighbouring countries to block borders into South Africa as well as requesting South African drivers working cross-border to leave.

“Go back to your country and join Sipho Zungu (ATDF leader) and all other South African hooligans.”

Beitbridge border closure, Beitbridge was closed as of noon yesterday due to a positive COVID case. Initially it was only on the SA side offices that had closed and were being fumigated, any truck that was on SA side or in queue to cross could not move further, today rumours were rife that the border post will be closed for up to 72hours so that a complete fumigation can take place.

Officials are demanding that they be tested prior to returning to work, SARS and management are in talks to come to an agreement. We can confirm that drivers are not being processed at the moment, and no trucks are moving.

Cape Town Port running hot, with the latest —– that took place over the past week at Cape Town Port, the port is now seeing great success from these implementations, so much that the Covid-related cargo build-up could soon be a thing of the past.

Speaking during a webinar, Terry Gale who chairs the Exporters’ Club of the Western Cape (ECWC) said industry reckoned that by the end of the month the backlog should be overcome.

“When the lockdown started we used to have 15-16 vessels at anchorage, with delays lasting for 14-15 days. Some of the delays were a TBA-situation (to be announced).”

Now, with Transnet and private sector freight representatives meeting twice weekly to deliver solutions for slow processing, the port could soon receive direct calls from the same shipping lines who only a few weeks ago started bypassing the port, electing instead to tranship cargo destined for Cape Town at Port Elizabeth.

“We have six gangs – the teams required to operate specialised assets – where we started off with one. Transnet is also training new teams to come on board.”

As for the berths, two were fully operational, meaning imports and exports could move a lot more quickly, and expectations were that a third could soon be back on line.” Said Gale.

More meetings with public-private stakeholders are still required to fully co-ordinate the way forward.

Metals and Engineering sector get the nod, The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) has voiced strong support for government’s decision to support the sector which has taken huge strain as an increased global demand and high price hikes affected both raw materials and finished products due to the COVID pandemic.

There is a global shortage of affordable, good-quality scrap metal amid a downturn in global manufacturing as the worldwide lockdowns continue.

“Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel’s directive to the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (Itac) to determine amendments to the Price Preference System guidelines to address the shortage was to be welcomed,” he said, adding that the interventions came at a time when the industry needed all the government support it could get to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic turmoil.

“As Seifsa, we have previously stated our support for the principle of the non-export of scrap metal and are heartened by the government’s decision to support the industry during this difficult time of the pandemic, even as we await a longer-term solution to protect the industry through possible taxes on scrap metal exports,” Nyatsumba said.

Seifsa, which represents 22 employer associations in the broad metals and engineering sector, has in the past supported an export tax on scrap metal due to challenges in the metal industry.

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow”.

Trade Winds weekly update volume 11

ZSE suspends operations, The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange advised that all operations have been suspended until further notice.

“Whilst we await the guidance from our regulators on the operational modalities going forward, we notify our stakeholders that trading has been suspended until further notice.” – statement issued by the Secretary for Information.

Brokers have been scrambling to find reasons to inform investors as to why their money has disappeared.

On a positive note, experts have advised that Zimbabwe can significantly narrow its debt if the country manages its vast natural resources in a sustainable manner although the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened Zimbabwe’s debt deficit.

Studies have shown that Zimbabwe holds 13million tonnes of Gold, 2.8 Billion tonnes of Platinum and 16.5million carats of Diamonds just to name a few precious resources.

Dr Moyo said, “with this natural wealth, the country could harness it for development without overly relying on erratic external flows”.   

Kopfontein delays continue, Freight flow at the Skilpadshek border is still taking a knock from COVID related issues, the border which is a vital access point connecting South Africa to Botswana and Namibia is facing continued delays as the Botswana health authorities continue with their inflexible coronavirus testing measures for all truck drivers entering the country which requires the drivers to wait up to 72hours for their results.

 Mike Fitzmaurice, chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) said that it doesn’t look like the situation is going to change anytime soon.

“Restrictive testing is a real problem at the border, using Kopfontein for alternative access into Botswana because it’s not as busy as Skilpadshek is also still inconvenient because a lot of trucks have to head back south towards the TAC once they have passed through the border.” Fitzmaurice said.

Further South, ATDF (The All Truck Driver’s Foundation) has denied that its organisation disrupted transport on South African roads and intimidated truck drivers, footage has emerged of two cars sporting ATDF banners, parked on the yellow chevron section of the Key Ridge compulsory truck stop between Marianhill Toll Plaza and Pietermaritzburg.

Sifiso Nyathi the national secretary of ATDF said they were just asking for donations from drivers to boost the struggling organisation’s coffers.

The Federation of East and Southern African Transport Associations (Fesarta) said: “There is a car with an ATDF banner stopping and checking trucks looking for foreign drivers, please be alert”

Nyathi rubbished these reports by saying “We weren’t stopping the truck. There is no stop street on the highway. We were only asking for money.”

It’s not the first time that the ATDF has been accused of intimidating truck drivers, especially on the N3 where scenes of violent arson attacks over the past few years, apparently in opposition to foreign nationals working in South Africa’s road transport sector, have sparked wide-scale xenophobic unrest, claiming lives, destroying property and making headlines the world over.

Assistance for Cape Town Port, twenty specialised employees from Durban Container Terminal have volunteered to assist with delays at Cape Town Port, the teams consists of driver articulated vehicles, rubber tyre gantry cranes and ship-to-shore crane drivers boasting over 100 years of collective work experience.

“Both the container and multi-purpose terminals at the Port of Cape Town have been operating at reduced capacity since the introduction of the lockdown regulations.

“However, with the easing of the lockdown, port activities have increased. The container terminal is currently operating at 60% and the multi-purpose terminal at 75% capacity.

“The portside, which is responsible for marine operations, is only operating at 60% human resource capacity, but is able to offer full marine services. Transnet added.

The team will assist in improving cargo movement and extra staff availability.

Acting chief operations officer at Transnet Port Terminals, Velile Dube, said: “Despite all the challenges, we have been able to reduce the number of vessels waiting at anchorage from 11 to five vessels today.

“We have managed to increase the number of gangs from four to five and are now receiving additional staff to help with shifts.”

Cape Town Port seems to be the only port battling with cargo movement, as the City continues to feel the effects of COVID mainly due to it being the epicentre of South Africa’s outbreak.

Settling the debt, one of Zambia’s major copper mines has committed to pay K8 million out of the K58 million it owes the Kitwe City Council.

On Wednesday afternoon, bailiffs paid the Mine a visit in trying to recover debt owed to the local authority, Copperbelt security rushed to the mine in a-bid to intercept the bailiffs but later all 3 parties entered a closed-door meeting.

Journalists were later addressed and were advised that an agreement had been reached on how the debt will be settled.

“The status is that the amount is K58 million. We have negotiated to pay in instalments and today (Wednesday), the mine will pay K8 million and the rest will be paid in instalments. That is the position,” Nundwe said.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 10

Too rich for relief, South Africa is facing a public financing crisis, according to the supplementary budget Finance Minister Tito Mboweni presented on Wednesday.

Debt will continue to rise with an expected peak in 2024 with a drop below 80% of gross domestic product by 2028, which is, best case scenario as long as the government sticks to their plan of stabilizing the economy which is predicted to shrink by 7.2%, the worst the country has seen in 90 years.

“Debt is our weakness, even as South Africa responds to the current health and economic crisis, a fiscal reckoning looms. The public finances are dangerously overstretched.” the minister said in his budget speech.

 Zambian inflation slows as Zimbabwe’s soars, Zambian inflation slowed for the first time in 15 months in June as the kwacha pared some earlier losses.

“Consumer prices increased 15.9% from a year earlier, compared to 16.6% in May, costs rose 0.2% in the month.” Mulenga Musepa, the interim statistician general at the Zambia Statistics Agency told reporters Thursday in Lusaka.

Zimbabwe announced on Wednesday that petrol had increased from 28.96 Zimbabwe Dollars per litre to 71.62 Zim Dollars per litre, this is more than a 150% increase. Zimbabwe began weekly foreign currency auctions on Tuesday in a bid to increase efficiency in the allocation of scarce U.S. dollars in the economy.

This adds to the ever-increasing inflation rates, over priced food and scarce medical supplies, the country is enduring its worst financial crisis in over 10 years.

Border delays continue, Transporters headed towards the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC) are being forced to use the Kopfontein-Tlokweng border, this is the result of  excessive delays from Covid-19 testing and testing measures being introduced at the Skilpadshek border crossing west of Zeerust. This is affecting Namibia’s main access route to South Africa.

Kasumbalesa’s clearing problems have eased as there was free flowing traffic, considering the Lockdown over the weekend, this is good news.

Elsewhere in the Sub-Saharan region, faster processing of truck traffic has returned to Chirundu, the problematic border crossing between Zimbabwe and Zambia and has resulted in higher volumes of cargo going North which can only be a good thing.

It’s not us, said ATDF chairperson Mr Ngwenya, Mr Ngwenya has said “It’s not us” after questions were raised as to who was behind the July 7 transport threat which is urging hauliers to replace foreign national drivers with local people.

This comes as a surprise considering that the ATDF last week issued a letter on official stationery, bearing the name of Ngwenya and three other officials, giving local trucking companies seven days to “get rid of foreign national drivers”.

“As South African truck drivers we are no longer going to tolerate this nonsense of non-compliance by South African trucking companies. “We demand that all foreigners driving South African trucks be removed and replaced by the South African citizens.” – statement from the letter issued by the ATDF.

Gavin Kelly, chief executive officer of the Road freight Association (RFA), said “groups like the ATDF had a legitimate concern that not all South African transport companies followed the rules and regulations of employment.

Yet they have no right to force operators, including those whose foreign national staff hold permits issued by the Department of Labour, to dismiss people based on nationality or face the consequences”.

“Knowing Is Not Enough; We Must Apply. Wishing Is Not Enough; We Must Do.”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 7

Political interference, news just in, caution has been sent out to transporters and drivers as unrest broke out at near a market just south of the Kasumbalesa border, there are claims of a faction war as a political member was dismissed from parliament, currently there are no cases of injuries or damage to vehicles but transporters are urged to not proceed to the Kasumbalesa border.

Continued delays, the Zimbabwean Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) has decided to check every truck entering the country, only a certain amount of trucks are allowed to be released every hour by SARS which is again leading to continued delays and creating longer queues going north at the Beitbridge border post, transporters as well as importers and exporters await an update from Shipping and Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe, there is a concern too about the amount of weight the bridge can handle as the trucks sit stationary.

Drivers are calling on help from SADC as their working conditions worsen, a driver who used his phone to record the congestion in Botswana just south of the Kazangula border post said the following “We are about 100 trucks, there’s a single toilet, no water, no food, this is so inhuman. We are appealing to the SADC to do something about it.”

Since then the Botswana Presidential Covid-19 task team has seen the footage and has re-assured the public and relevant stakeholders that they are continuously looking at ways to streamline processes and overcome any challenges.

According to Freight News, “the Presidential Task Team on Covid-19 has directed that, with immediate effect, all truck drivers entering Botswana will now be required to produce evidence of negative Covid-19 results that are not more than 72 hours old, if your test results come in after 48 hours you then have one day to transit into Botswana.”

“So, if you’re stuck in a queue with all the drivers waiting for their results, your valid test will no longer be considered in Botswana and you would need to be tested again.” Said one transporter.

Level 3, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last Sunday that the whole of South Africa will be going into Level 3 from the 1st of June allowing for the majority of the economy to open up however on Tuesday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize advised that some coronavirus hotspot areas could remain at level 4, this is to be determined on the amount of cases reported in these areas and will be re-evaluated every two weeks.

Doors closed… For now, AngloGold Ashanti has temporarily shut its doors on mining operations following 164 miners testing positive, the world’s deepest gold mine just recently resumed operations at 50% capacity but due the positive tests results, has been forced to halt operations at the Mponeng Mine.

Sibanye-Stillwater may not resume at 100% just yet says CEO Neal Froneman.

“We are not even sure that we will ramp up to 100%, and we will have to assess that in the next phase of the ramp-up,” he said, adding that the implementation of safety measures would be challenging at deep operations.

“What I have assured is that we are not putting commercial issues ahead of the wellbeing of our employees.”

There are more cases expected at the various South African mines which is going to put pressure on operations and the country’s economy however positivity is on the rise as the country gears up for Level 3.

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 6

Chaos ensues at the Beitbridge border post as the closure of Botswana’s border post mounts huge pressure on the ZIMRA clearing system which is also understaffed for such volumes.

Developing reports are showing that there is a double lane queue that is roughly 12 Kilometres long, drivers are crossing over to Zimbabwe without having received their Zim Notification and are being fined which itself is adding pressure to the whole ordeal.    

Truck drivers headed towards Botswana face stringent COVID-19 measures, the usual three days allowed to enter the country has been slashed down to just one day.

  According to Freight News, “the Presidential Task Team on Covid-19 has directed that, with immediate effect, all truck drivers entering Botswana will now be required to produce evidence of negative Covid-19 results that are not more than 72 hours old, if your test results come in after 48 hours you then have one day to transit into Botswana.”

“So, if you’re stuck in a queue with all the drivers waiting for their results, your valid test will no longer be considered in Botswana and you would need to be tested again.” Said one transporter.

Growing queues at the Beitbridge border post

Nakonde re-opened, President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu announced on Friday that the Nakonde border be re-opened to the movement of cargo only, President Edgar Lungu shut the border on Sunday after the town of Nakonde recorded 76 cases of COVID-19.

“Trucks from both sides have been moving, starting with those destined for Tanzania,” Malozo Sichone, the minister of Zambia’s Muchinga province, said.

Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya advised that the lockdown imposed on Nakonde town was lifted on Friday, however restrictions on movement would be in force from Saturday to allow for mass screening, the general public are still barred from crossing the border.

More woes for SA Miners, Mining Giants Harmony Gold have had to slow down production at their Kalgold Mine whilst mining has come to a standstill as two sub-contractors tested positive for COVID-19, this comes just days after positive results yielded at Marula Joint Venture, a platinum mine, and at Dwarsrivier, a chrome mine, which are both situated in the country’s Limpopo province.

CEO of Harmony, Peter Steenkamp said “Every effort is made at our mines to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 virus,”

“Harmony will continue its routine screening and testing at the mine in line with its COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedure,” the company said.

Implats (Impala Platinum) has also temporarily suspended production after announcing that 19 employees had tested positive at their Marula plant on the weekend.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called on the Limpopo provincial government to shut mines in the province.

Namibian Ports Open, Namibia has vowed to keep its ports open to allow the movement of goods to its landlocked neighbours, this was announced after President Hage Geingob met with leaders from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique.

“Covid-19 is a global pandemic and requires coordinated regional, pan-African and global action, during this difficult period, Namibia recognises how interdependent and how interconnected we are as neighbours,” Geingob said.

“Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.”

Trade Winds weekly update volume 4

Zimbabwe had announced on Sunday, plans to open a new stock exchange by using the attraction of Victoria Falls and turning the resort into an international financial centre which will be known as Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX).

Foreign investors have seemingly lost interest in the country’s capital markets, so the aim of opening VFEX is to lure investors back thus building global capital and targeting most specifically, the mining sector. VFEX will trade in foreign currency only.

The modus operandi is to mirror the likes of other offshore centres in Africa, such-as Mauritius, who is a standout offshore financial centre. Internationally, these types of centres are found in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and the EU (Luxembourg & Netherlands).

Frustrations mount as delays are being experienced at the Chirundu border. Zimbabwean officials have been instructed to move down south and inspect vehicles sitting at truck stops in order to combat potential smuggling thus resulting in slower processing at the “control zones”, in turn a queue has formed reaching a distance of 10km.

Just north, Zambia is still fully trading despite having 139 confirmed cases and 4 confirmed deaths due to the Coronavirus with no indication that the country will enter a lockdown anytime soon.

South Africa entered its first week of “Level 4” lockdown, as businesses slowly resume operations under very strict government regulations. Only a specified list of industries has reopened and most at a third of their work force. This coupled with the additional regulations surrounding work areas, PPE, health screening and social distancing has companies and individuals alike struggling to find their footing in the new business world. We must call on one another, not only as South Africans but as Africans to remain positive, hopeful but most importantly safe during this trying time.

            “Unity, to be real, must stand the severest strain without breaking.”

Trade Winds bi weekly update volume 3

Zimbabwe owned Rio Energy Ltd, with the help of Chinese owned China Gezhouba Group Corp will be in, collaboration, building a new 2,100 megawatt thermal power plant in northern Zimbabwe with a staggering price tag of $3 Billion.

“CGGC will develop the project and assist with the fund raising,” Caleb Dengu, chairman of Rio Energy Ltd said last week.

Construction of the Sengwa power plant will be done in four phases, counting of around 700 megawatts in each phase, adding a total capacity of 2,800 megawatts to the grid.

“We have coal reserves to support a 10,000 megawatt plant at Sengwa,” Dengu said.

This will hopefully over time tackle the energy challenges Zimbabwe face as they import and generate a combined 1,300 megawatts short of its 2,200 megawatt demand.

Business as usual for borders within Zimbabwe, Beitbridge and Chirundu are open for Business, commodities are flowing in and out however they are being stopped for inspection to ensure that they conform to what ZIMRA deems “essential”.

South African’s eagerly await the latest confirmed announcements with regards to the new “Risk Adjustment Strategy” as the various sectors are expected to slowly open up from next week, there is still some grey areas as to which metros will be operating at Level 4 and which will be remaining at Level 5 also known as “Hard Lockdown”.

Mining Giants Gold Fields have projected a 32,000 ounce loss of production at its South Deep mine in South Africa due to a nationwide lockdown.

The miner, which has operations in South America, Australia and West Africa advised that gold production for the quarter ended March 31 was 537,000 ounces, down from 542,000 ounces a year earlier.

“The impact of the pandemic has been relatively muted on our operations, with production only slightly affected. However, the situation is fluid and there is the possibility of further lockdowns and restrictions in the countries in which we have a presence which may lead to production disruptions in future,” Gold Fields said.

Unfortunately, some mines are feeling the effects of the pandemic and lock down as South African gold miner Village Main Reef has started its retrenchments process of workers at its West Gold Plant, Tau Lekoa and Kopanang mines.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has said that as many as 6 309 workers could be without jobs, although NUM had not been properly informed of the potential job losses, they have called on the mines ministry to intervene.

Leaving off on a positive note, South Africa’s 26 years of Democracy was celebrated this past Monday and the world joined in by displaying the colours of the country’s flags on some of their landmarks.

Image: Facebook/Burj Khalifa

Images of the late former president Nelson Mandela were also put up in the famous Times Square in New York.

Image: Facebook/Times Square

           

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”