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Stage 2 Loadshedding Until Monday

Eskom will implement stage 2 load-shedding from 5pm on Tuesday afternoon — until 5am on Monday, due to “severe generation capacity constraints”.

The power utility said: “This load-shedding has been caused by a shortage of generation capacity owing to delays in returning generators to service, as well as breakdowns of nine generators.”

It added it will continue to monitor the system and implement any changes “as required”.

Eskom said since Monday, a generation unit each at Lethabo, Tutuka, Ingula, Drakensberg, Arnot as well as two units each at Hendrina and Matla power stations suffered breakdowns.

It said further delays in returning generators to service at Arnot, Kendal and three units at Tutuka power stations have added to the capacity constraints.

“Eskom expects to return as many of these units to service as possible over the next few days. We also expect to rely on the use of emergency generating reserves to limit the stage of load-shedding.

“We have 3,875MW on planned maintenance, while another 15,067MW of capacity is unavailable due to breakdowns,” it said.

Eskom reminded the public that load-shedding is implemented only as a “last resort” to protect the national grid.

“We request the public to continue using electricity sparingly to reduce the occurrence of load-shedding. Eskom will promptly inform the public should there be any further significant developments,” it said.

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Dramatic Increase in Diesel Price this Week

Petrol prices are set to be lowered on Wednesday, but diesel will see another dramatic increase, the department of mineral resources and energy announced on Tuesday.

The petrol price for both 93 and 95 will be cut by 12c a litre, while diesel will increase by 98c (0.05% sulphur) and 92c (0.005% sulphur). Paraffin prices will also be increased by 79.60c/l.

The average Brent crude oil price fell from an average of $109.37 a barrel in March to $104.78 in April, thanks in part to the new Covid-19 lockdowns in China, which reduced demand for crude oil. Also, the US released some of its oil strategic stocks to curb ongoing price increases.

“The impact of these two factors was not that significant as the average price of crude oil only decreased slightly during the period under review and is still high,” said the department.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered an oil price shock. Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of crude oil, and it has been locked out of western markets, pushing oil prices higher and causing massive fuel price hikes as a result.

Local fuel prices continue to benefit from a temporary cut of R1.50 in the general fuel levy for April and May. The outlook for June however may be rather bleak if the current trend continues.

The total fuel levy will remain R2.44 a litre for petrol and R2.30 for diesel in May. Petrol and diesel prices have surged by more than a third over the past year.

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Eskom warns of load shedding at very short notice

Eskom urged South Africans to reduce their power use as the electricity system is severely constrained due to the delay in returning units to service and the loss of multiple generation units on Monday.

Any further losses of generation capacity would trigger load shedding at “very short notice”, the utility warned.

Eskom said the power system on Monday afternoon was “very constrained” following various breakdowns over the weekend, as well as delays in returning some generation units to service.

Eskom is working on returning a generation unit each at Matimba, Duvha and Arnot power stations to service before the evening peak on Monday.

Generation units at Arnot, Kendal, Matla and Tutuka power stations have been returned to service, but Eskom said it is still heavily reliant on emergency reserves to meet demand on Monday night. There reserves are currently at “healthy” levels, the utility added.

Some 4 533MW in capacity is out due to on planned maintenance, while another 13 601MW is unavailable due to breakdowns.

“Eskom would again like to remind the public that load shedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid. We therefore request the public to continue using electricity sparingly to reduce the occurrence of load shedding,” the utility said in a statement.

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Eskom’s weekend gift: Load shedding ends at 10pm tonight

In a statement, the power utility said it expected to return nine generation units to service during the weekend.

These generation units are at Hendrina and two generation units each at Arnot, Duvha, Majuba and Tutuka power stations.

“The low weekend demand will assist in replenishing emergency reserves. This, together with the reduced weekend demand, will enable Eskom to suspend load shedding at 10pm tonight,” the power utility said.

Eskom has urged residents to remain cautious with the return to service of these generating units, as the power system remains severely constrained and volatile.

“During next week we anticipate to continue relying on the use of emergency reserves to meet demand. We currently have 5 353MW of planned maintenance, while another 14 912MW of capacity is unavailable due to breakdowns,” Eskom said.

The power utility apologised, yet again, for the implementation of load shedding and said it would be closely monitoring the power system.

Eskom said load shedding is only implemented as a last resort to protect the national grid.

It urged all residents to continue using electricity sparingly.

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Security officer arrested for allegedly bombing Vanderbijlpark power sub-station

A security officer and two others were arrested in connection with the bombing of a municipal power sub-station, the SA Police Service said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili said the sub-station was allegedly bombed on April 15, while the security guard was on duty.

“The security officer who was guarding the sub-station reported that she was on duty when she opened for three men who informed her that they were employed to work at the sub-station. She then heard a loud explosion at a sub-station and later discovered that it had been bombed.

“A thorough investigation was conducted by the police, which led to the arrest of the security officer that was on duty and two other suspects. Police are searching for two suspects that are still at large,” she said.

Muridili said two women aged 33 and 51, as well as a 34-year-old man, were arrested in Vanderbijlpark on April 19. They are expected to appear at Vanderbijlpark Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela, praised the detectives who arrested the three.

“Gauteng is experiencing serious challenges with theft of cables and damage to essential infrastructure, which contribute to some of the causes for the disruption of power supply. These arrests are indicative of our resolve to work tirelessly with our stakeholders to mitigate this challenge,” he said.

In a separate incident, the police said a man was arrested for allegedly dealing in dagga in Lehae following a community tip-off.

“A preliminary report suggests the SAPS members received a community tip-off on a man allegedly selling dagga in the area of Lehae.

“The SAPS members proceeded to the identified address and conducted a search. Police subsequently recovered small ziplock packets containing dagga found in possession of the suspect,” spokesperson Sergeant Bafana Ndimande said.

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WHO ‘strongly recommends’ Pfizer’s Covid Pill

The World Health Organization said Friday it “strongly recommended” Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid for patients with milder forms of the disease who were still at a high risk of hospitalisation.

However the UN agency warned it was “extremely concerned” that the inequality in access seen with COVID vaccines would again leave low- and middle-income countries “pushed to the end of the queue”.

US pharma giant Pfizer’s combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir was the “superior choice” of treatment for unvaccinated, elderly or immunocompromised people with COVID, the WHO’s experts said in the BMJ medical journal.

For the same patients, the WHO also made a “conditional (weak) recommendation” of the antiviral drug remdesivir made by US biotech firm Gilead – which it had previously recommended against.

The WHO recommended Paxlovid over remdesivir, as well as over Merck’s molnupiravir pill and monoclonal antibodies.

Pfizer’s oral treatment prevents hospitalisation more than the “available alternatives, has fewer concerns with respects to harms than molnupiravir, and is easier to administer than intravenous remdesivir and antibodies,” the WHO’s experts said.

The new recommendation was based on the findings of two trials involving almost 3,100 patients which showed that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospital admission by 85 percent.

The trials also “suggested no important difference in mortality” and “little or no risk of adverse effects leading to drug discontinuation”.

The recommendation applies to people over the age of 18, but not to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

It also does not apply to patients with a low risk of complications from the disease, because the benefit would be minimal.

The WHO’s experts also declined to give an opinion for patients with severe forms of the disease, due to a lack of data.

LIMITATIONS AND INEQUITIES

The WHO stressed the limitations of such antiviral treatments.

“The medicine can only be administered while the disease is at its early stages,” they said.

This means the patients must quickly test positive and be prescribed the pill by a doctor – all of which can pose obstacles for low- and middle-income countries, the WHO said.

Yet Covid pills have been seen as a potentially huge step in ending the pandemic as they can be taken at home, rather than in hospital.

Patients must start taking their Paxlovid pills within five days of the onset of symptoms – the course then lasts five days.

Remdesivir can be taken within seven days of symptoms setting in, but it is administered intravenously over three days.

QUESTIONS ABOUT COST

The WHO called on Pfizer to “make its pricing and deals more transparent” for Paxlovid.

Lisa Hedman, the WHO’s senior advisor on access to medicines, said that radio station NPR reported a full course of Paxlovid costs $530 in the United States. Another source unconfirmed by WHO gave the price of $250 in an upper-middle income country.

Remdesivir meanwhile costs $520, Hedman said, but generic versions made by companies in India sell for $53-$64.

There is also a question mark over whether the virus could build resistance to these treatments.

But earlier this month Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla predicted a bright future for treatments like Paxlovid as people grow tired of getting further booster vaccinations.

Coming under fire for prioritising wealthy countries with its vaccine, Pfizer has agreed to allow some generic drugmakers around the world to make cheaper versions of Paxlovid under a UN-backed scheme.

But on Friday the WHO “strongly recommended” that Pfizer let more generic manufacturers produce the drug and “make it available faster at affordable prices”.

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High-speed train – funded by CHINA – could soon connect Joburg and Durban

Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘dream’ of bringing a high-speed train network to South Africa looks like it has taken a step forward recently, after the Chinese Ambassador to Mzansi revealed that a route between Joburg and Durban is in the pipeline.

A HIGH-SPEED TRAIN FROM JOBURG TO DURBAN: IT MAY BECOME ‘MORE THAN A FANTASY’…

Chen Xiaodong elaborated on the scheme during a recent engagement with local business authorities. The South Africa-China Economy and Trade Association (SACETA) met on Thursday 14th April at the Gallagher Conference Center in Midrand, Johannesburg. Amongst other proposals, smart city developments and 5G coverage were discussed.

But when attention turned to a possible high-speed train connecting two of our biggest cities, there was a palpable jolt of excitement. Famously, SA’s railways are in a dire state – and any work to fix our tracks should be welcomed.

CHINA-FUNDED RAIL PROJECT ‘BEING WEIGHED UP’

For some critics, it’s believed that South Africa must rebuild the most basic infrastructure before anyone starts mentioning bullet trains. Investors from China, however, aren’t feeling so pragmatic. As revealed by Xiaodong, money men from the Far East are already trying to hammer out a feasibility plan for the Joburg-Durban route.

“We will [also] work to deliver the nine programs announced at last year’s FOCAC meeting, and deepen all cooperation under BRICS. China is actively working on feasibility studies… including a project to connect with South Africa on its train network, and implement a high-speed rail route between Johannesburg and Durban.”

Chen Xiaodong

CHINA AMBASSADOR ON HIGH-SPEED TRAIN PROJECT, KZN RELIEF FUNDS

Ambassador Xiaodong has had a busy week. The diplomat also gave R1 million to humanitarian efforts in KZN. This donation follows the declaration of the National State of Disaster on Monday, after various municipal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape were ravaged by extreme weather conditions.

“On behalf of the people and the government of South Africa, we extend our deepest gratitude to the government of China for this generous donation. [It] will enable us to meet the immediate needs of hundreds of families affected by the recent floods, including people who are displaced from their homes, to get back on their feet.”

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu

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Netflix faces stagnation, loses 200,000 subscribers – is this the end of an era?

Having lost subscribers for the first time in more than a decade, Netflix faces the new challenge of stagnation from a position of strength.

A drop of just 200,000 users – less than 0.1 percent of its total customer base – was enough to send Wall Street panicking, with shares plunging more than 30 percent on Wednesday.

The loss of subscribers and the company’s various plans to revive business “change the historically simple story” of Netflix’s solid success, said Wells Fargo analysts, who cut its price target in half.

“The new outlook is clear as mud,” they said.

If the Q1 loss of subscribers might seem a blip at first blush, Netflix is signalling otherwise: The company anticipates a much larger drop in its second quarter – of around two million net subscribers.

“I’m not sure that’s a turning point” for Netflix, said Scott Zari of S&P Global Ratings.

“But I think it is indicative of maybe a new phase of slower growth,” he said.

Bank of America analysts said in a note that Netflix “made it clear that we can expect very low subscriber growth in ’22 and ’23 with no margin expansion.”

The shift was felt even in the tone of the company’s results presentation on Tuesday evening.

The affair focused less on the streamer’s mega-hits such as “Bridgerton” and “Ozark” and more on combating the 100 million households who watch Netflix for free thanks to shared passwords.

“When we were growing fast, it wasn’t the high priority to work on,” co-founder Reed Hastings admitted.

“And now, we’re working super hard on it.”

Chief operating officer Gregory Peters said Netflix wasn’t trying to shut down sharing, “but we’re going to ask you to pay a bit more to be able to share.”

According to Zari, “future growth will be dependent on how can they monetize those households.”

Advertising is coming

To attract viewers, Netflix is preparing cheaper subscriptions with advertising – which it expects to roll out in the next couple of years.

The Los Gatos, California-based company, has long defended its no-ads model, which set it apart from competitors such as Disney+, HBO Max and Apple.

For Pivotal analyst Jeff Wlodarczak, streaming “appears nearly fully penetrated globally post-Covid, and the companies now must set their sights on converting pirates into subscribers, gaining greater market share from each other and driving up prices.”

Increasing prices won’t help Netflix in the short term, though it raised its fees in January to the extent that it is now the most expensive among the major streamers.

“I think they’ll have to adjust their business,” said Paul Hardart, a professor at New York University, including “on the cost side, investing in content.”

For University of Richmond professor Joel Mier, Netflix’s price increases and axing of password sharing are “peripheral but meaningful” short-term solutions, while its long-term strategy remains “investing in local-content creation and establishing its gaming presence.”

With 221 million subscribers, “Netflix is by far the market leader in the streaming space,” Zari said.

“They’re very far ahead, particularly in the global marketplace,” said Hardart.

“I think it will give them a lot of advantages.”

The problems Netflix faces are “not good news” for the company, he emphasised.

But as the global leader, whatever Netflix goes through, the other streamers are also likely to face eventually.

It’s “probably worse news for the other services that are starting to try to build themselves,” he said

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Gun safety report reveals ‘Rust’ producers did not follow industry protocols

Producers of the movie Rust demonstrated “plain indifference” to firearms hazards and repeatedly violated industry safety protocols on the set where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer, New Mexico health officials said Wednesday.

Filmmakers behind the low-budget Western where tragedy struck last October were handed the maximum allowable fine over the safety breaches, following a report by the southwestern US state’s environment department.

‘RUST’ PRODUCERS DEMONSTRATED PLAIN INDIFFERENCE

A separate and unrelated criminal investigation into how a Colt gun brandished by Baldwin during a rehearsal inside a church building discharged a live round, killing Halyna Hutchins, is still ongoing.

Rust producers “demonstrated plain indifference to the hazards associated with firearms by routinely failing to practice their own safety protocols, failing to enforce adherence to safety protocols,” the environment department report said.

They failed “to ensure that the handling of deadly weapons was afforded the time and effort needed to keep the cast and crew safe,” and ignored crew complaints over earlier instances when guns misfired on set, it said.

New Mexico health officials

The set’s safety coordinator “took no direct action to address safety concerns,” while management “was provided multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so.”

Hutchins died and director Joel Souza was severely injured “as a result of these failures,” the report concluded.

‘RUST’ PRODUCERS BREACHED SEVERAL INDUSTRY GUIDELINES

The department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) – which interviewed 14 people and reviewed more than 500 documents – issued a “willful-serious citation” and a $136 793 (Over R2 million) civil penalty.

“This is the highest level of citation and maximum fine allowable by state law in New Mexico,” said a statement.

The report listed breaches of several industry guidelines, including bringing live ammunition on set, pre-loading weapons, and leaving weapons unattended.

Other breaches it found included failing to hold safety meetings every day when firearms were being handled, and a lack of weapons-handling training for actors.

Actors pointed guns at the camera or at another person during “many camera shots” without consulting a weapons expert, the report said.

“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” said New Mexico environment cabinet secretary James Kenney.

“This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”

James Kenney

Stefan Friedman, a spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions, wrote in a statement to AFP that while the producers “appreciate” the OHSB’s “time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family.”

ALEC BALDWIN AND OTHER ‘RUST’ PRODUCERS DEAL WITH CIVIL LAWSUITS

Police have not yet filed criminal charges over the tragedy, and have refused to rule out charges against anyone involved, including Baldwin.

Hutchins’ family has sued Baldwin and other Rust producers, claiming “substantial” damages for her wrongful death.

Other civil proceedings over the fatal shooting have been launched against producers by the movie’s chief lighting technician and script supervisor.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the set’s armourer in charge of weapons, has sued the film’s ammunition supplier, accusing him of leaving real bullets among the dummy cartridges.

Baldwin, who was the star and a producer on Rust, has said he was told the gun contained no live ammunition, had been instructed by Hutchins to point the gun in her direction and did not pull the trigger.

“I feel that someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is,” Baldwin said in an interview in December.

“But I know it’s not me.”

Alec Baldwin

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Like the rest: Bobby van Jaarsveld is seen queuing at water truck

Following the percussions of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) floods over the past week, much of the country has been plagued with power and water cuts. And celebs like Bobby van Jaarsveld have not been exempt.

Rope in electricity substation explosions and stage 4 load shedding and it’s safe to say that the whole country is suffering!

BOBBY VAN JAARSVELD QUEUES FOR WATER

Over the Easter weekend, the Afrikaans crooner posted a snap on his Facebook account of himself filling up a bucket from a water truck in his residential area

He captioned it: “As KZN is flooded with so much water our town has now been without for 5 days and we are standing in queues to get water”.

Bobby used the experience as a metaphor for his Christian faith.

He continued: “Then I just realised again. Thank you Father that we do not have to stand in queues in the Spirit for the Living Water! We can choose this everyday and get it right away. Thank you for what You have done for us. It’s all about You”.

MORE CELEBS BEMOAN OUTAGES

It’s not just Bobby van Jaarsveld who felt the inconvenience of the energy and water crisis.

Celebs like Mihlali, Pearl Thusi and Ntsiki Mazwai have taken to social media to vent their frustrations.

Nadia Nakai – who has her own personal crisis on her hands in the form of her relationship – posted a clip on her Instagram Stories saying: “Loadshedding when it’s this cold is just very cruel. It’s unnecessary”

Meanwhile actress Kamo Modisakeng tweeted: “Load shedding 3 times a day?! Stage 4 is actual hell”.