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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2641
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 5067
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9365
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 7735

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 003925

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DEPT FOR OES/PCI, OES/ENV, AND AF/S
DEPT PASS EPA/OIA,

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI ETRD SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY MONTHLY
BRIEFINGS, OCTOBER 2007


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1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings newsletter, October 2007, Volume 2,
Number 7, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- MINISTER POSTPONES BAN ON ABALONE HARVESTING
-- GREEN SCORPIONS SHUT DOWN ACELORMITTAL DUMP SITE
-- AFRICA COULD CASH IN ON CARBON CREDITS
-- LEARNING MATH AND SCIENCE FROM A CELL PHONE
-- GAUTRAIN PROJECT TO ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN MATH
AND SCIENCE
-- NEDBANK ON GREENING CRUSADE
-- GM MAIZE LEVELS EXCEED FIFTY PERCENT IN SA
-- CONVENTION CENTER YIELDS RETURNS FOR CAPE TOWN


End Summary.

MINISTER POSTPONES BAN ON ABALONE HARVESTING

2. (U) Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT)
Marthinus Van Schalkwyk postponed the cabinet- approved ban on
commercial harvesting of wild abalone one day before it was to take
effect. The ban, which was to commence on November 1, 2007, was
originally imposed to protect the over-harvested and poached abalone
stocks. Abalone has become a prized commodity for both local
entrepreneurs and organized crime within South Africa. The number
of poached abalone confiscated in South Africa has risen from 21,
000 in 1994 to over one million in 2007. The biggest market for
abalone is Asia where it is used for medicinal purposes and is
considered a seafood delicacy.

3. (U) The Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) and other
stakeholders are opposed to the proposed ban. COSATU attacked the
government for not consulting with all stakeholders before taking
such a drastic action. COSATU warned that over 800 jobs could be
lost if the ban was not lifted. Labor movement spokesman Tony
Ehrenreich agreed that poachers must be eliminated, but maintained
that abalone fishing was a necessity for the coastal communities
that have depended upon it for generations. Head of the 302-member
South African Abalone Industry Association Scott Russell threatened
to take legal action against the minister for what he called
"economically crippling intentions and actions." Minister Van
Schalkwyk said stated the ban could still be implemented on February
1, 2008, but only after a further careful review.
GREEN SCORPIONS SHUT DOWN ACELORMITTAL DUMP SITE
4. (U) South Africa's environmental management inspectors (EMIs),
also known as the "Green Scorpions," have shut down AcelorMittal's
waste operations site in the Vaal in Guateng province. An earlier
assessment of the waste site had revealed illegal dumping of
hazardous waste on prohibited landfill sites, resulting in surface
and groundwater contamination with iron, oil, fluoride, etc. EMIs
had warned AcelorMittal about these illegal activities, but the
company had not rectified their practices, according to the
Department of Environment and Tourism Affairs (DEAT) authorities.
Green Scorpion spokesperson Sizwe Matshikiza said the company
provided "dissatisfactory submissions about their environmental
compliance, which prompted the authorities to issue a directive and
compliance notice against the company." The notice instructed
AcelorMittal to stop all operations at the site, and to remove the
100,000 tons of magnetite it had dumped there. Matshikiza noted
that the company had until December 2008 to remove the hazardous
waste and to rehabilitate the site.
AFRICA COULD CASH IN ON CARBON CREDITS
5. (U) The South African government's Central Energy Fund (CEF) has
Q5. (U) The South African government's Central Energy Fund (CEF) has
launched CEF Carbon, an international carbon trading company. CEF
Carbon will assist South African and other African countries to
develop Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) projects. CEF Chief
Executive Mputumi Ndamane said CEF Carbon should stimulate growth of
CDM projects. Ndamane noted that South Africa lags behind other
countries in creating viable CDM projects, and has only twenty CDM
projects in the pipeline to date, while China and Latin America have
over 500 and India has over 600. South African regulatory law firm
Weber, Wentzel and Bowens Head of Financial Services and Carbon Unit
Johann Scholtz said South Africa must start implementing carbon
reduction mechanisms and transactions now. He noted that South
Africa is a carbon-based economy and is likely to incur emission
reduction obligations by 2012. He sees "huge opportunities" for CEF
Carbon to make use of the CDM in South Africa.
LEARNING MATH AND SCIENCE FROM A CELL PHONE
6. (U) South African math teacher Kumaras Pillay developed the
MLearner program, which allows school children to access a website
with math and science content using a basic cell phone. The program
includes a world-wide cell phone- compatible forum where school
children can compare and share notes, ask questions, obtain

PRETORIA 00003925 002.2 OF 002


assistance, write online tests and obtain results instantly.
Burnwood Secondary School principal Nanesh Gokal manages the
MLearner website (www.mlearner.co.za). Gokal noted that initial
difficulties included getting mathematical and scientific symbols to
match the cell phone keys, and the small screen size of a cell
phone. U.S.-based Microsoft has already visited the school in
Kwa-Zulu Natal province to discuss MLearner with Pillay. Pillay
plans to enter the MLearner program in the Microsoft Worldwide
Innovative Teachers Forum competition in Helsinki. The MLearner has
already won the national Innovative Teachers Forum Award in
Johannesburg in September 2007.
GAUTRAIN PROJECT TO ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN MATH AND
SCIENCE
7. (U) The Gautrain Project has launched an educational website
encouraging South African school children to pursue engineering,
math, science and technology careers. The website introduces high
school students to the Gautrain project, providing progress reports
and background information about the skills and careers involved in
the project. Gauteng Provincial Minister of Transport Ignatius
Jacobs said the Gautrain project is a real-life, practical example
of how different careers are working together to build Africa's
first rapid rail network project. Jacobs hoped that South African
youth would develop the skills to develop and implement massive
infrastructure projects. Jacobs added that the only way to obtain
the skills needed for major infrastructural projects is for students
to study engineering, math and technology. The Gautrain will run
between Johannesburg and Pretoria, as well as the O. R. Tambo
International Airport in Kempton Park. Gautrain spokesperson
Barbara Jensen added that the website was also designed to encourage
teenagers to make use of public transport and to raise awareness
about issues pertaining to noise and dust pollution.
NEDBAN ON GREENING CRUSADE
8. (U) Nedbank, one of South Africa's four largest banks, has begun
emphasizing environmental sustainability in its advertising and new
products. Nedbank Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mike Brown said
Nedbank now offers environmentally-oriented products including a
credit card that contributes to the environmental causes based on
consumer spending. Nedbank is also investigating its energy
utilization and carbon footprint. Nedbank currently has an
advertisement billboard powered by a solar panel that also generates
electricity for a local school kitchen in Alexander. Nedbank is the
only bank in South Africa that has signed the Equator Principle,
i.e., a commitment that development projects funded by the bank
would be environmentally sustainable. Nedbank also sponsors the
Green Mining Award which encourages mines to introduce environmental
sustainability programs. Brown notes that Nedbank will start
focusing on climate change and adaptation activities in the near
future.
GM MAIZE LEVELS EXCEED FIFTY PERCENT IN SA
9. (U) Monsanto spokesman Bright Breytenbach stated that more than
half of all the seeds sold to South African farmers for the next
planting season are genetically modified (GM). Breytenbach also
noted that local consumers cannot distinguish between GM and organic
maize because the two are stored together in grain silos after
harvesting. Monsanto biotechnology marketing manager Kobus
Steenkamp noted that GM maize has been produced for 12 years in
QSteenkamp noted that GM maize has been produced for 12 years in
South Africa. Monsanto believes that GM maize in use will reach 75
percent levels in South Africa within the next few years.
Elsewhere, the GM Executive Council allowed Monsanto to conduct an
event for GM drought resistant corn, which could have a significant
economic impact on South Africa's corn producing regions.
CONVENTION CENTER YIELDS RETURNS FOR CAPE TOWN
10. (U) Cape Town's International Convention Center (CTICC),
established in 2003, contributed over $37 million to GDP in
2006-2007, according a study conducted jointly by the University of
Cape Town and independent economic modeler Antony Boting. The
center has been used to host international meetings, private, and
public institutional and organizational gatherings. CTICC Managing
Director Dirk Elzinga stated that more than 509 conferences,
including 46 international conferences, have been held at CTICC,
bringing over 45,576 international delegates to Cape Town. The
report noted that CTICC also promotes "induced" tourism since
delegates tend to extend their stay after attending conferences.
These business tourists account for 30 - 40 percent of the center's
economic impact. The largest international conference hosted by the
CTICC was the 19th World Diabetes Congress held in December 2007,
which attracted over 12,300 delegates. CTICC employs 3,796 people
directly and 5,343 indirectly. The center has generated
approximately R1 billion ($142.85 million) in foreign exchange, and
R222 million ($31.7 million) in taxes for 2007.
Bost

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