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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #2274/01 2911453
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171453Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6040
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
INFO RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 6135
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 0275
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 8486

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PRETORIA 002274

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

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI ETRD SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY MONTHLY
BRIEFINGS, SEPTEMBER 2008

PRETORIA 00002274 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings Newsletter, September 2008, Volume 3,
Number 9, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- RHINO POACHING INCREASING IN KRUGER PARK

-- NON-GMO MAIZE SHORTAGES THREATEN SA INDUSTRY

-- WILDFIRES KILL FOURTEEN PEOPLE, INJURE SIXTY
AND DESTROY 635 HOUSES

-- SA MOVING TOWARDS KNWOLEDGE-BASED ECONOMY

-- GLOBAL SCIENTISTS ENCOURAGED TO ASSIST SA
SCIENTIESTS

-- DOW JONES SUSTAINABILITY INDEX LISTS SASOL
-- CABINET LEADS THE WAYIN SOUTH AFRICA TREE-PLANTING CAMPAIGN
-- SOUTH AFRICAN 2008 TREE OF THE YEAR: Harpephyllum Caffrum Bernh

-- MONTHLY FACTOID

----------------------------------------
Rhino Poaching Increasing in Kruger Park
----------------------------------------

2 (U) World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has reported an increase in the
number of rhino killed in South Africa by poachers and horn
smugglers in recent months. Spokesperson for WWF and Ezemvelo KZN
Wildlife Jaques Flamand said the Kruger National Park is the worst
affected. He also commented that there were only 4,000 black rhinos
left worldwide, and the number will decrease if the poaching is not
stopped. Flamand noted by South African standards the number of
rhinos poached here is very high, a record nine in 2008. Twenty
rhinos were killed in 2008 in Zimbabwe's Lowveld conservancies. No
records are available for other areas within Zimbabwe. Flamand
attributes increasing rhino poaching to rising demand for rhino horn
in China and other Asian countries. Flamand said it was expensive
to protect rhino effectively against poaching because such
protection requires many game rangers and weapons.

--------------------------------------------
Non-GMO Maize Shortages Threaten SA Industry
--------------------------------------------

3. (U) The World Food Program (WFP), one of the biggest buyers of
South Africa's non-GMO maize, has raised concerns about projected
insufficient supplies of South African organic maize, and is
considering buying organic maize elsewhere. WFP spokesman Richard
Lee said the price for South African maize is good and it can easily
be transported to final destinations by either land or sea. Lee
added that it is possible WFP will stop buying South African maize
due to inadequate control measures. Lee noted that many African
maize-recipient countries do not want GMO maize, and the demand for
non-GMO maize has escalated. Farmers complain that it is difficult
to separate GMO from non-GMO maize because of cross pollination;
some milling companies argue that grain storage facilities are
contaminated with GMO maize. Both factors make it difficult to
export GMO-free maize. Lee said WFP bought 400,000 tons of maize
from South Africa and wants to increase its purchases because of
crop surpluses and good market prices. Lee said the demand for
maize has resulted in record purchases in Malawi, Mozambique and
Zambia. Maize exporters want the government to ensure a reliable
local supply of non-GMO maize for the export market.

--------------------------------------
Wildfires Kill Fourteen People, Injure
Sixty and Destroy 635 Houses
--------------------------------------

4. (U) Wildfires roared through vast areas across the Kwa-Zulu Natal
(KZN) province, killing fourteen people, injuring sixty others, and
Q(KZN) province, killing fourteen people, injuring sixty others, and
destroying property and animals. Provincial Minister of Local
Government, Housing and Traditional Affairs Michael Mabuyakhulu said
that casualties included the six-year-old daughter of the ANC
President Jacob Zuma's nephew who died from injuries caused by a
piece of corrugated steel sheet that flew off the roof of her family
homestead. Mabuyakhulu confirmed that a fire-fighter pilot lost his
life when his light aircraft was brought down by strong winds. The
Minister noted that 635 houses were destroyed. KZN remains on high
fire alert. Mabuyakhulu said he did not believe the fires were
started naturally, and added that provincial officials were working
with the police to investigate. Areas affected included Nkandla,
Richards Bay and Umlazi in the northern region.

PRETORIA 00002274 002.2 OF 003

-----------------------------------------
SA Moving Towards Knowledge-Based Economy
-----------------------------------------

5. (U) The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) recently released
results of a national research and development (R&D) survey
indicating that South Africa spent R16.5 billion ($2.06 billion) on
R&D during the 2006/7 fiscal year. This is an increase from the
2005/06 R&D expenditure of R14.1 billion ($1.76 billion).
Department of Science and Technology (DST) Director-General Dr. Phil
Mjwara noted that South Africa would likely meet its goal of
spending one percent of GDP on R&D by 2008/09. Mjwara said the
increased R&D expenditure showed South Africa's growing
participation in and progress towards a knowledge-based economy.
The HSRC survey indicated that most R&D was in the engineering
sciences research (20.9 percent), natural sciences (20.3 percent),
higher education (20 percent), and medical and health sciences (15.1
percent). Mjwara said the survey revealed that local business was
the major funder for R&D, financing 51.3 percent of total R&D. Only
10.6 percent of South Africa's R&D is financed from abroad. The
survey was commissioned by the DST and involved comprehensive
surveys of business, government (including the nine science
councils), higher education and non-profit sectors.

--------------------------------------------
Global Scientists Encouraged to Assist South
African Scientists
--------------------------------------------

6. (U) Former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
stated at the September 14, 2008, International Association of
Science Parks (IASP) conference that, "One of South Africa's biggest
challenges is human resource development." Mlambo-Ngcuka urged
scientists from around the world to assist South Africa in
increasing the number of skilled scientists through human resource
development programs. She noted that science parks provide an
opportunity to share knowledge and information and thus act to
accelerate the knowledge economy. Speaking at the same event,
Minister of Science and Technology (DST) Mosibudi Mangena said
science parks fostered entrepreneurship and economic
competitiveness, thus creating environments that enhance knowledge
sharing and commercialization of technology.


7. (U) Minister Mangena also announced that the DST would establish
a Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) in the near future. This
agency would stimulate and intensify technological innovation,
support local inventions, and create a platform for
commercialization. IAST ran concurrently with the International
Science, Innovation and Technology Exhibition (INSITE) and the
Bio2Biz 2008 conference at the Sandton Convention Centre. INSITE
provides a platform for showcasing international innovative
solutions to social and economic challenges, while Bio2Biz 2008
highlights international biotechnology trends and developments.
This is the first IAST conference held in South Africa; until
recently the Innovative Hub in Pretoria was Africa's only
internationally accredited Science Park. Morocco and Tunisia have
also established science parks.

------------------------------------------
Dow Jones Sustainability Index Lists Sasol
------------------------------------------
8. (U) Sasol Chief Executive Pat Davies announced that the
petrochemicals company has become the first South African industrial
Qpetrochemicals company has become the first South African industrial
company to be listed on the Dow Jones sustainability world index.
Davies said: "This is a great achievement for Sasol because our
previous best was to get to the top 15% in the oil and gas sector
last year." Sasol, one of South Africa's largest polluters, has an
abatement project at Sasol Nitro that converts greenhouse gas
nitrous oxide into nitrogen and oxygen as a clean development
mechanism (CDM). Davies said that Sasol, unlike other participants
in CDM, does not sell its carbon credits. The Dow Jones
sustainability world index, established in 1999, consists of the top
10% of the largest stocks in the Dow Jones global indexes in terms
of sustainability and environmental practices. The corporate
sustainability of the companies is assessed using a weighting system
that considers various economic, environmental and social metrics.
Dow Jones indexes editor and Executive Director John Prestbo stated
that several institutional investors were factoring in
sustainability "and a growing number of market participants are
integrating long-term economic, environmental and social factors
into their analysis".
-------------------------------------

PRETORIA 00002274 003.2 OF 003


Cabinet Leads the Way in South Africa
Tree-Planting Campaign
-------------------------------------

9. (U) Cabinet Leads the Way in South African Tree Minister of Water
Affairs and Forestry Lindiwe Hendricks distributed trees to all
cabinet members during the first week in September to mark the start
of Arbor Week. The Cabinet endorsed Hendricks campaign encouraging
South Africans to plant trees. Former President Thabo Mbeki and
Minister Hendricks launched the campaign entitled "Plant a Million
Trees" in 2007, when the two planted trees in GaRankuwa, Pretoria.
The various South African provinces have collectively planted
681,749 trees since the start of the campaign. Mpumalanga province
leads all the other provinces, with 129,314 trees planted.

--------------------------------------------- -
DME Delays Issuance of Seashore Mining License
--------------------------------------------- -

10. (U) Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) spokesman Bheki
Khumalo announced that there would a delay in issuing titanium
mining licenses to Australian Minerals Resources Commodities (MRC)
and local subsidiary Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM). MRC and
TEM sough to extract titanium from sand dunes located along the
common border of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal provinces.
Legal Resources Center (LRC) had appealed the previous granting of
the license, claiming that the local communities' input and consent
had not been sought. The mineral advisory board will now hear
arguments by the opposing parties. Local communities oppose the
titanium mining because they fear losing their access to grazing
lands and to lands where their ancestors are buried. LRC attorney
Sarah Sephton hoped the minister would put a permanent stop to the
proposed mining project. DME argues that mining will bring
infrastructure development and job opportunities for the local
communities.

------------------------------------
South African 2008 Tree of the Year:
Harpephyllum Caffrum Bernh
------------------------------------
11. (U) -- Family: Anacardiaceae (mango family)
-- Common names: wild plum (English); wildepruim (Afrikaans);
umGwenya (Zulu, Xhosa); Mothekele (Northern Sotho)
-- Description: The South African wild plum is a large, evergreen
tree that grows up to fifty feet, and is usually found in riverine
forests. The bark is smooth when young, becoming rough, and dark
grey-brown. Branches are curved upwards, with leaves crowded
towards the ends, forming a thick crown at the top of the tree.
Shiny dark-green, glossy leaves are interspersed with the red
leaves. The tree produces whitish green flowers throughout summer
(November to February). Green plum-like fruits turn red when they
ripen in autumn. They contain a single seed.
-- Distribution: The Harpephyllum caffrum grows from the Eastern
Cape northwards through KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, southern
Mozambique, Limpopo and into Zimbabwe.
-- Derivation of name: The generic name Harpephyllum comes from the
Greek, meaning sickle-like leaves. The specific name caffrum is
derived from its place of origin, Kaffraria, now part of Eastern
Cape. H. caffrum belongs to the Anacardiaceae (mango family), which
is the fourth largest tree family in southern Africa, with
approximately 80 tree species.
-- Uses and cultural aspects: H. caffrum fruit is widely utilized
by birds, animals, insects and humans. The fruits are used in jams,
Qby birds, animals, insects and humans. The fruits are used in jams,
jellies and ros wine. The bark is a popular traditional medicine
used to treat acne and eczema. Powdered burnt bark is used to treat
sprains and bone fractures. The bark is also used for dyeing,
producing a mauve color. In some parts of Eastern Cape, the root is
used in traditional medicine for paralysis thought to have been
contracted from walking over an area that has been poisoned. Larvae
of the common hair tail butterfly (Anthene definite) and the Eggar
moth (Lasiocampa kollikerii) feed on the leaves; bush babies,
monkeys, baboons and bushbuck love the ripe plums. Birds including
the Cape parrot, mousebird, barbet, bulbul, and African green pigeon
feed on the fruit.

---------------
Monthly Factoid
---------------

12. (U) There are 18,000 indigenous vascular plant species in South
Africa, 80% of which are uniquely South African.

BALL

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