Bua Briefs 1 of 2011

4 February 2011

Working together to curb the impact of disasters

Government expresses its deepest condolences to families who have lost loved ones through incidents which include floods, lightning, storms and tornadoes. To those who have sustained injuries, and lost houses, business places and other infrastructure, government also conveys its deepest sympathy.

Government continues to do all in its power to minimise further loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure. The highest levels of government are working tirelessly with all sectors of society to ensure a coordinated and coherent approach in assisting those affected. A National State of Disaster has been declared which covers eight provinces and 33 municipalities. These include Gauteng, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Government thanks those volunteers and members of the public who have been and continue to work selflessly to assist those communities that have been affected. The role played by non-governmental and other relief organisations in partnering with government to provide humanitarian aid to our communities cannot be underestimated.

Disaster-management plans are in place to ensure a heightened state of readiness should further rains and flooding occur. This is crucial as the possibility of further heavy rains is predicted.

  • All disaster-management structures in the country have been put on high alert and are working in conjunction with the South African National Defence Force, the South African Police Service, other government departments and civil-society structures to deal with the floods.
  • Cabinet ministers, premiers, MECs and mayors have undertaken visits to the majority of affected areas to assess the extent of the damage, check that all plans to address the problems are in place and speed up the mobilisation of resources where needed.
  • Municipalities and provinces are at the forefront of local efforts to provide damage assessments and lead assistance to those affected in the form of alternative accommodation, blankets and food parcels.

People are encouraged to listen to the local media for weather updates and emergency information, as well as communicate any flooding problems with the local authorities.

  • Floods and flash floods can happen quickly without warning, so people staying in flood-prone areas must be prepared to act immediately.
  • The national disaster-management centres advise people to follow instructions and advice from their local authorities as they are best informed about areas that are likely to be affected.
  • All people, especially children, should avoid rivers that are swelling their banks, canals and low lying bridges, especially when high rainfall has been forecast. People staying in flood-prone areas must be ready to evacuate immediately when emergency services issue the call.
  • In case of evacuation, people must leave affected areas early enough to avoid being marooned by flooded roads. Delaying may allow escape routes to be blocked.


South Africa's membership of BRIC

South Africa has accepted the invitation from the BRIC (Brazil, Russian Federation, India and China) formation to become a full member. South Africa’s advocacy to become a full member was headed by President Jacob Zuma who has been invited to attend the third BRICS Leaders’ Summit to be held in China in April this year.

South Africa is committed to intensify relations with countries of the South and emerging powers through active and strong bilateral engagement.

South Africa can benefit from the concrete projects of BRICS in areas such as agriculture, science, statistics, development finance institutions, security and justice.

  • South Africa remains committed to the consolidation of the African Agenda and will use its BRICS membership to increase strategic cooperation among emerging market economies of the South in support of this agenda.
  • South Africa is dedicated to African unity and integration within the framework of the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU). This includes the strengthening of continental institutions which are critical in responding to the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment, peace, security and stability on the continent.
  • South Africa took up its two-year non-permanent seat to the UN Peace and Security Council (UNSC) from January 2011 and will continue to make a significant contribution to deepening the relationship and cooperation between the UNSC and the AU.
  • All BRICS countries will serve on the UNSC in 2011 as permanent (China, Russian Federation) or non-permanent members (Brazil, India and South Africa), which augurs positively for enhanced cooperation efforts.

South Africa advocates for countries of the North to be more responsive to the needs of developing countries and for countries of the South, which represent the majority of developing countries in the world, to play a more visible role in global affairs.

As a BRICS member, South Africa’s advocacy to prioritise the role of emerging economies will be strengthened in the international developmental agenda.

  • South Africa’s BRICS membership will enhance its reputation as one of the leading campaigners for the reform of multilateral institutions, including the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the IMF and the UNSC.
  • As part of the G20 and the Group of 5 (G5 – the five emerging nations), South Africa will use its BRICS membership to push for a developmental position on multilateral forums, including on contentious issues such as climate change and agricultural trade.
  • The upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change, to be hosted by Durban, will strive towards a common developmental position to reduce emissions.
  • South Africa is seized with ensuring a legally binding climate change agreement that will govern the world’s response to the increasingly visible effects of climate change and reiterates that any final agreement must support the developmental agenda of the South. BRICS members have all signed the Kyoto Protocol, a blueprint to reduce carbon emissions.

South Africa’s diversified foreign policy objectives and interests allow for both groupings (India-Brazil-South Africa and BRICS) to co-exist as they are highly complementary.

  • South Africa spearheaded the creation of IBSA in 2003 as a vehicle to drive the development imperatives of the South. IBSA was conceived, as a voice and platform of the South, with a view to becoming a G-8 of the South.
  • IBSA has become an important mechanism for strengthening coordination on international and regional issues, fostering South-South cooperation to amplify the collective voice of the South and deepening mutually beneficial trilateral cooperation, based on common experiences, complementarities and resources.
  • IBSA is defined by the strong political relations between the three countries and their regions, and encourages and supports initiatives to strengthen economic co-operation, which mirrors these political relations.
  • IBSA aims to increase trade volumes between the three countries to US$ 25 billion by 2015.



Public Works

South Africa puts unemployed back to work

The Department of Public Works has set aside R210 million to hire and train unemployed people to fix potholes, build low bridges and maintain public garden spaces following the recent floods across the country. Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde said the three projects, which would create more than 600 000 job opportunities, would commence in February 2011.


Business owners optimistic about 2011

The Grant Thornton's 2011 International Business Report reveals that South African business owners are more optimistic about the nation’s 2011 economic landscape than they were about last year’s. The optimism balance by South African business owners of 64% is 4% higher than last year's index.

Aid agency to be launched

The South African Development Partnership Agency is expected to become operational before mid-2011 and will work with other donor agencies to coordinate development programmes, mainly on the African continent.

Home Affairs

Home Affairs improves identity document (ID) services

The Department of Home Affairs has taken measures to ensure that South Africans have IDs in time for the voter registration weekend taking place on Saturday, 5, and Sunday, 6 February. The department's Director-General, Mkuseli Apleni, said plans were in place to make certain that those who applied for IDs received them on time.

Trade and Industry

Campaign to teach about new Consumer Protection Act

The Department of Trade and Industry will be running an educational campaign throughout February on the Consumer Protection Act. The aim is to raise awareness among all South Africans about their rights as consumers under the Consumer Protection Act, which comes into effect on 1 April this year.


Innovation bridges digital divide for thousands

The Content Company has piloted a device that will help rural scholars bridge the digital divide. The device will connect underprivileged schools to live online information, without the complications normally associated with using modern computers in these areas.

University of the Free State receives international award

The University of the Free State has received the World Universities Forum Award for Best Practice in Higher Education during 2010. The Best Practice Award recognises the most significant practices of the year around the world in higher education institutions.