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I Want A Fracking Future

Fracking could be the $100-billion energy game changer that Africa needs at the risk of destroying this land. It has sparked conflict before a drill has touched the earth.

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It’s a hard life for farmers who have lived for generations in the Karoo, South Africa’s vast expanse of nothing. Every day, they fight cutting winds and soaring temperatures in bone-dry valleys to nurture their stock. To the visitor, the Karoo is a barren place between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Here the communities are small, Twitter is scarce and there are more goats than people. Soon there could be more rumbling trucks than goats.

This is all because of a mining method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It’s been hailed a savior of the United States (US) economy, during the 2008 recession, making it one of the largest producers of natural gas in the world. It is now on its way to South Africa, because the government and oil and gas companies believe, beneath the Karoo, lies an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas; enough to fuel the country’s economy for up to 20-30 years. It could also bring $100 billion and thousands of jobs.

For some, like Harry Memese, who grew up in the small town of Graaff Reinet, in the heart of the Karoo, the sound of thousands of trucks full of gas grinding along the highways could be music to his ears.

“I have worked as a petrol cashier for eight years, there is no job other than that in Graaff Reinet. The people are suffering. There are 30 youths here where I live, and only two of them are working in my street. Fracking is going to help the people get jobs. If you look around our townships, like here in Graaff Reinet, and the rest of the Eastern Cape, people are not working. Fracking is supposed to bring in 300,000 more jobs. At least there is something that people can earn earn,” says the 33-year-old.

Grey hair, from a life harder than the land he grew up in, makes Memese look older than he is. His life is a struggle and the $420-a-month he earns is barely enough to feed his wife, children and younger brother. The promise of fracking could mean a new lease of life for his family. He dreams of seeing his 19-year-old brother Ayanda one day qualifying as an electrical engineer on a fracking well.

No one really knows how much shale gas is in the Karoo. When estimates emerged in 2010, Econometrix, South Africa’s largest independent macro-economic consulting firm, believed there was 485 tcf, enough to make South Africa the fifth largest producer in the world.

But these days the figure has been downsized. Another task team set by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), in September 2012, spearheaded by the Petroleum Oil and Gas Corporation of South Africa (PetroSA), believes there is a mere 30 tcf.

No matter the figure, companies want to explore. Shell, the largest bidder in the Karoo, wants to frack 90,000 square kilometers – the size of Sierra Leone.

“It’s a potential resource. It certainly can be a big player. Scientists initially thought it was 485 tcf but the latest from the same people is 370 tcf. If you listen to petroleum companies, it could be fractions of that. To put things into scale, PetroSA has been running on 1 tcf for their gas to liquid plant in Mossel Bay. The challenging thing for South Africa is the environmental impact and the regulations,” says Chris Bredenhann, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ oil and gas advisory leader in Africa.

Bredenhann thinks natural gas may have captured investor interest, but Africa has its challenges. In his company’s 2014 Africa oil and gas review, companies operating in Africa face fraud, corruption, theft, poor infrastructure and a lack of skills. Investors are also concerned about regulatory uncertainty.

“Some key players have delayed or canceled projects until further clarity can be sought in their respective jurisdictions as they cannot move forward with doubts given the long-term nature of the needed investments,” says Bredenhann.

According to the report, Africa has proven natural gas reserves of 502 tcf, with 90% of the continent’s annual production of 6.5 tcf coming from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt. China has an estimated 1,115 tcf, the largest supply of shale gas. With African countries like Mozambique looking to exploit reserves, the competition for sales and investment is tough.

“There is also the fact there is tight international competition. Asia, who is the main consumer of gas, is being fed by the United States and the likes of Australia who managed to set up their operations far faster than expected. It means companies operating out of Tanzania and Mozambique, who have met various delays in operations, will lose out as the price decreases in a competitive market,” says Bredenhann.

Falling prices could spell disaster for the up-and-coming countries looking to sell their surplus gas.

“The sentiment of Africa being open is applicable to South Africa. Total, Chevron and Shell have made investments offshore. If you had this conversation five years ago this would have been a different conversation,” says Bredenhann.

The only certainty for those who want to frack, is that they have a fight on their hands.

Rallying The Cheques

In a year, the fighting fund for farmers in the Karoo has swollen.
A sure sign that the gloves are off.

Like his fellow 3,000 farmers, Dickie Ogilvie won’t let fracking vie without a fight. Ogilvie gave up teaching to help his wife, Colleen, take over her brother’s farm, Doorndraai, 100 kilometers south west of Graaff Reinet. His fears have led him to pledge R3 for every hectare on his 14,000 hectare farm to fight fracking in court. Most farmers across the Karoo are as trenchant as him.

“Some guys have given a lump sum payment. Most of the other moneys are per hectare basis, the pledge varies from R1 a hectare to R10 ($1), depending how strongly a farmer feels.  There is a lot of money to fight this if it goes to litigation process. Farmers have realized now how serious this can be,” says Ogilvie.

“Our resolution from the Aberdeen district is dire. I don’t believe they understand that if something goes wrong the Karoo is finished. You cannot rectify the water contamination, once it’s been contaminated it’s over, we will have to move off. It’s not only farms; the towns rely on underground water. My small little family can make a plan, but we are talking about whole communities in towns. It’s a huge problem, no answers are given, there is so much uncertainty.”

The fierce litigation between big business and the Karoo’s landowners has been brewing since 2009, when fracking explorations were stopped to allow for regulations. Landowners locked horns with government over the lack of consultation and what they call flawed laws and uninformed environmental assessments.

Their lobbying has seen some results, says Derek Light, the small-town lawyer from Graaff Reinet. The small offices he works in have been consumed by fracking for three years. Light even took a cell phone when he went for hip surgery so he wouldn’t miss anything. He represents hundreds of landowners, including millionaire Johann Rupert, the second richest man in Africa, who lives around the corner.

In September, four years after the first applications were submitted, baseline water testing began. The study, researched by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and financed by the Eastern Cape provincial government, looks at the Karoo’s underground water system.

“Baseline testing is not done overnight, it’s a long process that takes two to three years. The timing of it has been poor, and it is something the oil companies should have done in their environmental management plan process, which they failed to do. It’s now being done by the taxpayer. The government should have had this information at their disposal when they first made their decisions on the whole process,” says Light.

He adds that the government jumped the gun. Drafts, issued in 2013, were flawed and focused on regulating fracking while forgetting about the mining operations around it, says Light.

“Drilling in South Africa is not regulated at all. Shell and other companies feed off the fact that there are few documented cases of contamination from the actual fracking process. Because the wealth of contamination comes from the other process, you can’t divorce the one from the other.”

Another loud and stringent voice against fracking is that of Jonathan Deal, CEO of Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG). Strangely enough, he didn’t know about fracking until he read a news article in 2011 when Rupert was speaking out against it.

“I began to investigate and attended the Shell public meetings. It was very clear to me that Shell was trying to control the meetings. There was a very specific aim in those meetings and it wasn’t to tell the truth as far as I was concerned,” says Deal.

From his 40,000-hectare Eco-farm near Montagu, in the Karoo, Deal has been calling on the Presidency, the Public Protector and gas companies to revise their actions before fracking takes place. He’s not alone; Julius Kleynhans, the Head of Environmental Affairs at the NGO AfriForum, has declared it will back TKAG financially should it go

to court.

“It is the balance of convenience. If companies and the state have invested enormous amounts of money and the public sits and watches what happens and wait for everything to be built and then goes and complains. It’s very difficult for a court to literally throw its investments away.”

“If something goes wrong with a fracking well ten years later and those chemicals migrate 30 kilometers away, even if a farmer ends up with polluted water, what chance has he got of proving that it was from that well… if people get sick from air and water pollution, like what is being happening in the United States, who is going to pay for it? The state is; the people who pay tax. Not the companies that have shut down their operations when they have moved on somewhere else,” says Deal.

It’s not just a Karoo problem, says Deal.

“If fracking starts in this country and the gas reserves are there. We will see the technology of fracking march across this country just like it did in the United States. Geologically speaking the Karoo basin is where the gas bearing shale is thought to reside, and that extends into Gauteng and parts of Mpumalanga. In fact it extends out of the northern borders of South Africa.”

Despite plans to halt explorations until proper research is completed, the government remains adamant it will go ahead and be a game changer.

“New regulations should be released in September, but we don’t yet know what they contain. All of this has happened without consultation. It seems what will happen are inadequate regulations will be passed, with inadequate consultation. We are then faced with serious decisions where we go from there. If the regulations are unlawful, that may have to be challenged in the Constitutional Court. It seems, from the ministers announcements, hot off the heels of the new regulations will be the issuing of licenses which seems to indicate government has already taken a decision on those, which should not be granted because they don’t comply with the new laws,” says Light.

The impact of exploration could be catastrophic, says Deal, especially since companies refuse to disclose the chemical composition of the additives. Chemical additives make up 1% of the 20 million liters used for a well. On one pad there can be 32 wells.

“With exploration, the same risks are there, they have to frack to see if it’s there. Don’t come to this country and look for secrecy privileges. Don’t come and try hide behind commercial interests to hide the mix of chemicals, this is not America,” says Deal.

“The minute these licenses are issued, these corporates are going to carry on with what they want to do anyway. It’s going to be challenged. People are well aware of it. The minute those licenses are issued, they will be challenged,” says Ogilvie.

Landowners seem to be putting their money where their mouth is. One wonders what people across Africa, who don’t have money will do.

What’s The Problem?

Independent geologist, Wlady Altermann, believes fracking fears are full of hot air.

Imagine a rock with thousands of pockets. Then imagine you have to drill, thousands of times, to release the gas from these pockets. This is what the Karoo looks like underground and the amount of drilling needed could make fracking costly, says Wlady Altermann, a geologist at the University of Pretoria.

“All the knowledge of these compartments and the distribution of pockets are very poor. [The Karoo] would require a very good geophysical investigation. After that, the drill hole positions need to be drilled to investigate the properties of the rock, the stability of the composition and the wealth of the gas. Only after that, can a decision be made as to the wealth of the shale gas,” says Altermann.

The German- born professor knows a thing or two about rocks. Apart from studying them since he was a child, Altermann spent years studying rocks from Mars. Space travel was out of the question so Altermann flew across the globe and has been studying mineral deposits in South Africa since the 1980s.

Altermann, now the Kumba-Exxaro Chair in Geodynamics of Ore Deposits at the university, believes that fracking is harmless if it’s done properly.

“The misconceptions are basically based on poor information. It comes from the direct comparison with the United States, which I think is not comparable. Secondly, it comes from the perceptions that the surface and the shallow subsurface have something to do with shale gas deposits. Shale gas deposits are much deeper.”

“The fracking itself is such a tiny part of the entire process. It’s not the dangerous part of the process. The dangerous part of the process is the later methods of production. Fracking itself, I think, it’s the wrong discussion,” says Altermann.

Water contamination by drilling through the Karoo’s aquifers, 300 meters below the surface, is also unlikely says Altermann, because the distance between the underground water and the shale gas is far.

“The shale in the United States is at much shallower levels. Between 1,000-1,500 meters. The deeper you go, the less the risk of contamination. The pressure in the ceiling holds the gas better. The chance to contaminate groundwater through that type of production is so low; you really must act like an idiot to do this. It’s not impossible but if it’s done properly, there’s no problem,” he says.

The fracking process has made significant technological steps since it began 70 years ago, says Altermann. Wells can be spaced further apart because drilling horizontally can stretch for 5 kilometers. Ten years ago, that same reach was a kilometer.

The risk lies with the waste after fracking. Companies in the US have been guilty of reusing this water to save costs, instead of disposing of it.

“This is what causes most of the problems. In other countries, it is forbidden, there are environmental laws. That should be avoided in South Africa as well, controlled in a way that you can be sure nothing happens,”

says Altermann.

Natural gas is a greener fossil fuel than coal, says Altermann.

“South Africa’s energy demand is expected to increase by 60% up to 2050. Coal cannot supply it; if coal supplied it we would sit in darkness and not see our beautiful sunsets under the African sun. At today’s state of technology, the best way to mitigate climate change and CO2 emissions, the cheapest thing technically is to switch from coal to gas combustion. It reduces CO2 emissions by 50%. It’s a much more effective way of producing energy,”

says Altermann.

“People talk about fracking and groundwater; no one realizes that actually in many areas where groundwater is scarce, where there is not enough water to supply the population, fracking is used to extract groundwater. They frack the rocks, the aquifer, without chemicals with just water and sand and crack the rocks, so that water can flow out the cracks easier. It is used by many countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa.”

According to the professor, fracking could change the face of South Africa and not cause too much worry.

Last Gasp For Eden

It’s a small corner of the Karoo: a corridor of private land that stretches 300,000 hectares from the Camdeboo National Park, in Graaff Reinet, east to the Mountain Zebra National Park. It took 66 farmers over three years to buy into this project that promises a Garden of Eden teeming with wildlife. It could become known as the last piece of untouched land in the Karoo if fracking begins.

“The first meeting in Graaff Reinet was a little tense. I think a lot of the landowners thought we were going to attempt a big land purchase and buy out hundreds of thousands of hectares. Also, I think they were a bit worried that we were going to tell them what they had to do on their own land. Once this was clarified, there was little problem,” says Matthew Norval, the Director of the Conservation Programme at the Wilderness Foundation.

The corridor project is the brainchild of Norval, in collaboration with South Africa National Parks (SANParks). He wants to create a reserve for future generations.

“The farmers in this area have looked after the land for many generations, some of them are third and fourth generation. The reason you can build a natural corridor in that region is because the land has been so well looked after and is still in good condition and there is a strong affinity from the farmers who own that land,” says Norval.

The application is with the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.

“Fracking raised its head at almost the same time we started working in that area. There is no doubt that it influenced the way we worked and the way some of the landowners decided how to collaborate with us. I think fracking hit a lot of the landowners, sort of right between the eyes. They suddenly realized that properties that had been in their families for generations were now under threat. It was possible their land would get damaged and their children or their children’s children wouldn’t be able to make a livelihood from farming. You have to bear in mind its prime natural rangeland grazing for sheep and cattle,” says Norval.

“I think it would be near impossible to rehabilitate the Karoo after fracking. In some areas, to a layman it may look like gravel plain. Somebody that doesn’t understand the intricacies of that ecosystem might just assume you can level it and there you go. But it’s not like that.”

“This is our last gasp. Never mind rhino, we’re losing lion; we’re losing pangolin by the ton. When it comes to land, the opportunity to build corridors and create landscapes that are going to have some relevance in the future, this is our last chance. ”

Over to the minister.

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Climate Explained: How Much Of Climate Change Is Natural? How Much Is Man-made?

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How much climate change is natural? How much is man made?

As someone who has been working on climate change detection and its causes for over 20 years I was both surprised and not surprised that I was asked to write on this topic by The Conversation. For nearly all climate scientists, the case is proven that humans are the overwhelming cause of the long-term changes in the climate that we are observing. And that this case should be closed.

Despite this, climate denialists continue to receive prominence in some media which can lead people into thinking that man-made climate change is still in question. So it’s worth going back over the science to remind ourselves just how much has already been established.

Successive reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – mandated by the United Nations to assess scientific evidence on climate change – have evaluated the causes of climate change. The most recent special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees confirms that the observed changes in global and regional climate over the last 50 or so years are almost entirely due to human influence on the climate system and not due to natural causes.

What is climate change?

First we should perhaps ask what we mean by climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines climate change as:

a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.

The causes of climate change can be any combination of:

  • Internal variability in the climate system, when various components of the climate system – like the atmosphere and ocean – vary on their own to cause fluctuations in climatic conditions, such as temperature or rainfall. These internally-driven changes generally happen over decades or longer; shorter variations such as those related to El Niño fall in the bracket of climate variability, not climate change.
  • Natural external causes such as increases or decreases in volcanic activity or solar radiation. For example, every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips and this can cause small fluctuations in global temperature, up to about 0.2 degrees. On longer time scales – tens to hundreds of millions of years – geological processes can drive changes in the climate, due to shifting continents and mountain building.
  • Human influence through greenhouse gases (gases that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and methane), other particles released into the air (which absorb or reflect sunlight such as soot and aerosols) and land-use change (which affects how much sunlight is absorbed on land surfaces and also how much carbon dioxide and methane is absorbed and released by vegetation and soils).

What changes have been detected?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report showed that, on average, the global surface air temperature has risen by 1°C since the beginning of significant industrialisation (which roughly started in the 1850s). And it is increasing at ever faster rates, currently 0.2°C per decade, because the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have themselves been increasing ever faster.

The oceans are warming as well. In fact, about 90% of the extra heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is being absorbed by the oceans.

A warmer atmosphere and oceans are causing dramatic changes, including steep decreases in Arctic summer sea ice which is profoundly impacting arctic marine ecosystems, increasing sea level rise which is inundating low lying coastal areas such as Pacific island atolls, and an increasing frequency of many climate extremes such as drought and heavy rain, as well as disasters where climate is an important driver, such as wildfire, flooding and landslides.

Multiple lines of evidence, using different methods, show that human influence is the only plausible explanation for the patterns and magnitude of changes that have been detected.

This human influence is largely due to our activities that release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well sunlight absorbing soot. The main sources of these warming gases and particles are fossil fuel burning, cement production, land cover change (especially deforestation) and agriculture.

Weather attribution

Most of us will struggle to pick up slow changes in the climate. We feel climate change largely through how it affects weather from day-to-day, season-to-season and year-to-year.

The weather we experience arises from dynamic processes in the atmosphere, and interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the land surface. Human influence on the broader climate system acts on these processes so that the weather today is different in many ways from how it would have been.

One way we can more clearly see climate change is by looking at severe weather events. A branch of climate science, called extreme event or weather attribution, looks at memorable weather events and estimates the extent of human influence on the severity of these events. It uses weather models run with and without measured greenhouse gases to estimate how individual weather events would have been different in a world without climate change.

As of early 2019, nearly 70% of weather events that have been assessed in this way were shown to have had their likelihood and/or magnitude increased by human influence on climate. In a world without global warming, these events would have been less severe. Some 10% of the studies showed a reduction in likelihood, while for the remaining 20% global warming has not had a discernible effect. For example, one study showed that human influence on climate had increased the likelihood of the 2015-2018 drought that afflicted Cape Town in South Africa by a factor of three.

Adapting to a changing climate

Weather extremes underlie many of the hazards that damage society and the natural environment we depend upon. As global warming has progressed, so have the frequency and intensity of these hazards, and the damage they cause.

Minimising the impacts of these hazards, and having mechanisms in place to recover quickly from the impacts, is the aim of climate adaptation, as recently reported by the Global Commission on Adaptation.

As the Commission explains, investing in adaptation makes sense from economic, social and ethical perspectives. And as we know that climate change is caused by humans, society cannot use “lack of evidence” on its cause as an excuse for inaction any more.

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The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation

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Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.


As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.    

The spark that fueled the raging fire was in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district (CBD).

The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.

The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.

To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.

Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.

Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.

“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.

But South African businesses were affected too.

Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.

Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.

“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.

 Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected. 

Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.

“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.

Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).

Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.

Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.

The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.

Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.” 

Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.

There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.

A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.   

Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”

“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.

She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.

Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.

“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.

She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.

“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).

“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.

Women stop traffic while they hold up placards stating their grievences against GBV. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.

The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.

Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?

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How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap

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As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

READ MORE | Not Just Equality, But Recognition Of Excellence

“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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