South Africa Industry


The mining industry is the country’s most important export industry, but the manufacturing industry accounts for a larger share of GDP and employs more people.

The majority of raw materials and semi-finished products that the manufacturing industry needs, mainly from mines and agriculture, are located within the country. The largest sector in the manufacturing industry produces steel, metal products, machinery, cars and other vehicles. The automotive industry is successful with the production of, for example, Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW. Processing of agricultural products is an important sector that provides food, beverages and tobacco. The textile and chemical industries are also significant, as is biotechnology. The construction sector has grown strongly during the 2000s.

More than half of all industry is in the Gauteng province (around Johannesburg), which accounts for over a third of the country’s GDP. In the Western Cape, Durban and Port Elizabeth, the industry is also expanding significantly.

Lack of well-trained workforce restricts growth in important industrial sectors.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of South Africa. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.

South Africa

2019

December

Compensation for boy’s drowning death in latrine

December 18

A court ruled that damages should be paid to a family whose five-year-old son drowned in the school latrine in 2014. The boy ended up in the latrine when the seating device above it collapsed. The damages are equivalent to US $ 97,500. The family lives in the poor province of Limpopo where many school buildings are poorly built. As in other poor parts of the country, hundreds of clay-built schools are still used. These schools often lack proper toilets, which also helps many girls not go to school during their menstrual period. Neglected infrastructure is one of several reasons why a large proportion of students drop out of elementary school and only just over half of all young people graduate with full grades after high school.

Reduced penalty for white landowners

December 3

The penalty is lowered for two white landowners who in 2017 were sentenced to long prison sentences for attempted murder, kidnapping and assault on a black man (see Oct 27, 2017). The movie clip on the assault where the black man is threatened and forced into a coffin, spread on social media and received a lot of attention in South Africa. Although almost 25 years have passed since apartheid, the country is still characterized by deep injustices between blacks and whites. The defendants, Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins Jackson, denied the charges and appealed the verdict. The court now changes the criminal classification “attempted murder” to “assault with intent to cause harm”. The men were previously sentenced to 14 and 11 years in prison respectively. The sentence will now be five years in prison for both.

November

New bribery scandal shakes the ANC

November 21st

The MP and the former Minister of Security, Bongani Bongo, are arrested on suspicion of bribery. Bongo stands close to scandal-ridden ex-president Jacob Zuma and is accused of trying to bribe a senior official who investigated irregularities linked to state electricity company Eskom. Bongo is the highest-ranking within the ANC government party that has been arrested since the new state prosecutor took office and promised to put an end to corruption within the state apparatus (see 1 Feb 2019)

Migrants storm refugee offices

November 16

Police arrest 182 foreign migrants in the country’s capital, Pretoria. The intervention is taking place as hundreds of asylum seekers storm the office of the UN refugee body in the city. The incident is a continuation of the xenophobic attacks directed at Africans in several major cities in recent months.

October

Opposition within the opposition

October 23

Mmusi Maimane resigns as party leader for the largest opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA). The party has long been shaken by internal struggles between the party’s reform friends (mainly black) and the old guard (mainly white). Maimane was elected DA’s first black leader in 2015. Previously, DA has been criticized for representing only the white middle class. Two days ago, DA’s mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, also resigned. In the 2016 local elections, no party got its own majority in the country’s largest city and for the first time since the fall of apartheid the ANC government had to hand over the government of Johannesburg to a coalition of the DA and several smaller parties. The ANC can now regain its position as the ruling party in South Africa’s economic hub.

Electricity shortages hit the economy

October 16

The state electricity company Eskom is unable to meet the need for electricity and to face scheduled power outages called load shedding. The interruptions will continue throughout the rest of the year and into 2020. Eskom was also forced earlier in 2019 to take the same measure to prevent the electricity system from completely breaking down. Malpractice and outdated equipment in combination with corruption are behind the interruptions. The lack of electricity is a severe blow to the country’s economy.

September

At least twelve dead in violence against foreigners

September 20

Anti-alien attacks are increasing and 1,500 African migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are forced to flee their homes, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Worst hit is Johannesburg. Stores are destroyed and looted, truck drivers are attacked and killed. Human Rights Watch Legal Groupcalls on the government to better protect foreign workers. Poverty, poverty and unemployment are some of the underlying causes of the riots. This month alone, at least twelve people, South Africans and foreigners, have died in the riots. The violence has led to deteriorating relations between South Africa and other African states, primarily Nigeria. About 500 Nigerians have been taken home to Nigeria and South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa promises to take action to quell the violence. Many migrants express their desire to return to their respective countries.

Court upholds children’s rights

September 18

The Constitutional Court states that child labor in the home is prohibited under the Constitution. The court has tried a case from 2017 where a father was convicted of beating his 13-year-old son. A religious group appealed against the verdict on the grounds that parents have the right to raise their children “in accordance with their religious beliefs”. The nine judges in the Constitutional Court agree in their statement that discipline violates children’s rights. Since 1997, it is forbidden to discipline children in school.

March to stop violence against women

September 13

The murders of two young women in Cape Town trigger a series of protest marches across the country. The protesters demand a halt to the violence against women. The country’s crime statistics on violence against women are bleak. Every three hours a woman is murdered in South Africa, which is five times the global average. The number of rapes is surrounded by large dark figures but is estimated to be among the highest in the world.

August

Inkhata’s elder man resigns

August 24th

90-year-old Mangosuthu Buthelezi leaves the post of party leader for Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Buthelezi founded the Zulu Nationalist Party in 1975. In the following decades, IFP and the ANC fought violent power struggles that resulted in several thousand deaths. Buthelezi has been accused of cooperating with the white apartheid regime, which he strongly rejects. After the fall of the apartheid system, Buthelezi was Minister of the Interior between 1994 and 2004.

Ramaphosa is fighting corruption charges

12th of August

A Pretoria court temporarily stops Parliament from acting against President Cyril Ramaphosa, something the country’s justice ombudsman, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has demanded. In a report, Mkhwebane claims that the president has violated the Code of Conduct and attempted dark campaign contributions from the company Bosasa (see Nov. 18, 2018). The company is involved in one of the country’s biggest corruption scandals. The money should have been paid to run Ramaphosa’s campaign to win the leadership battle within the ANC 2017. The president has taken a fight against the charges and says they have no basis. Mkhwebane is a member of the ANC government party that supports former President Jacob Zuma. Many see her play as part of the power struggle within the party.

Raid against leagues in Johannesburg

August 8th

At least 600 foreign nationals are arrested and weapons and smuggled goods are seized in the Johannesburg area, where officials say there is a fight against organized crime. The effort is attracted a great deal of attention in social media, where many fear that the designation of foreigners should lead to growing xenophobia.

July

Red-string many unemployed

July 30

Unemployment reaches new record highs and is now up 29 percent. This is an increase of 1.4 percentage points compared to the first quarter of 2019. Among those who are under 35, the unemployment rate is 56.4 percent. President Cyril Ramaphosa has called youth unemployment a “national crisis”. During the second quarter of this year, approximately 49,000 jobs disappeared, mainly in the mining transport and construction sectors.

Expropriation of land can become a reality

July 28

An expert panel supports the proposal to forcibly redeem land without compensating the owner (see December 21, 2017 and February 27, 2018). However, the experts believe that it is not a solution to be used in general. The panel also writes that those who bought land after 1994, when democracy was introduced, should be treated differently to landowners whose property dates back to the apartheid era. When the ANC took power in 1994, the party promised a comprehensive land reform to offset historical injustices (see Agriculture). So far, the process has been slow. Compulsory redemption without compensation is seen as a way to speed up the process.

Ex-President Zuma in corruption interrogation

July 15

The Zondo Commission initiates interrogation with corruption-accused ex-president Jacob Zuma. The Commission has the task of sorting out the complicated corruption legacy that led to what is called “state capture” (or “kidnapping of the state”) during Zuma’s nine years in power 2009–2018. State capture means that private interests are allowed to go before the state. Zuma is accused of doing this by corruptly helping the Gupta financial family to lucrative government contracts and also giving the family great influence over ministerial appointments. Several high-ranking ANC members and former ministers are involved in the scandal, as are members of the Zuma family, including the son of the former president. Zuma is also accused of receiving bribes. Zuma calls the charges for throwing dirt and denies the crime. The Zondo Commission is not a court, but can make recommendations on future prosecutions. Zuma has previously been charged with corruption crimes in the 1990s. After four days of interrogation, Zuma interrupts his testimony. He says the hearings are similar to a criminal investigation and dismisses the allegations that previous witnesses made against him.

The EFF leaves a political coalition

July 3

The small but influential Left Party EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) decides to end the coalition work initiated by the party with the country’s largest opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA) after the 2016 local elections. Then the ANC lost the majority in the metropolises of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth. The cooperation between the EFF and the liberal DA has been marked by deep disagreements.

June

The government is suing for pollution

June 10th

Two environmental groups, Ground Work and the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement, sue the government for air pollution in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga. According to the lawsuit, emissions violate the constitutionally protected right to a healthy living environment. Mpumalanga has the world’s highest emission of nitrogen dioxide, according to a report by the environmental organization Greenpeace in October last year. The pollutants can cause chronic diseases such as lung cancer and asthma. Mpumalanga has the country’s largest coal mining and no less than twelve coal-fired power plants operated by the state electricity company Eskom. According to the lawsuit, these, together with two more coal-fired power plants in the province, emit the majority of the air pollution that causes the premature death of several hundred inhabitants.

May

President Ramaphosa slims the government

May 29th

President Cyril Ramaphosa presents a new and equal government. To cut government spending, Ramaphosa reduces the number of ministers from 36 to 28. Internationally respected finance minister Tito Mboweni retains his post, as does controversial Vice President David Mabuza, a sign of the president’s difficult balancing act between the reform-friendly bankruptcy of the party and ex-president Jacob Zumas big crowds to which Mabuza belongs. Ramaphosa was re-elected as the country’s president after the May 8 parliamentary elections. He was previously South Africa’s vice president and took over the presidency when Zuma resigned in 2018. In his installation speech, Ramaphosa promised to fight corruption and revitalize the weak economy.

New carbon dioxide tax will meet the climate threat

May 27th

President Cyril Ramaphosa signs a new law that will help reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. The law will start to apply from June 1 and is part of South Africa’s quest to live up to the Paris Agreement. The new emission tax has been planned since 2010 but has met industry criticism. South Africa is completely dependent on coal power and the country in Africa that emits the most carbon dioxide.

Mayor of Durban arrested for corruption

May 14

A senior member of the ANC government party, Zandile Gumede, is arrested and accused of corruption. Gumede is the mayor of Durban, South Africa’s third largest city. She is charged with embezzlement of public funds and money laundering. This is the latest in a series of corruption charges aimed at high-ranking people within the ANC. The arrest came after the South African special police, Hawks, investigated irregularities in connection with the procurement of the city’s garbage disposal.

The ANC wins the parliamentary elections

May 8

Parliamentary elections are held under peaceful conditions. The ruling ANC goes backwards compared to the 2014 elections, but still wins its own majority in parliament. The ANC receives 57.5 percent of the vote, giving 230 seats. This is 5 percentage points and 19 seats less than 2014. The largest opposition party DA backs a little more than a percent and lands at 20.7 percent and 84 seats. The radical left-wing party EFF wins terrain and goes from 6.4 to 10.8 percent, giving 44 seats, almost twice as many as in 2014. Inkatha Freedom Party also increases its voting share from 2.4 to 3.4 percent and receives 14 seats. The Freedom Front Plus party is also strengthened – from 0.9 to 2.4 percent, giving 10 seats (read more about the parties in the Political system).

February

ANC and DA fight for tight position against corruption

February 24th

President Ramaphosa says he will set up a court that will be given special powers to quickly find and restore state assets that have disappeared through corruption. Ramaphosa’s play comes the day after opposition party Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said that if his party wins the election in May, a special intervention force against corruption will be created.

Ramaphosa denies entry

February 14th

A former ANC member, Mosiuoa Lekota, accuses President Ramaphosa of having, during the apartheid era, indicated his comrades for not being sent to the notorious prison island of Robben Island. Lekota gives his testimony before Parliament, where Ramaphosa goes in defense by denying the charges. Ramaphosa was arrested and detained for a number of months on two occasions, 1974 and 1976, but unlike Lekota and others, he never ended up on Robben Island. Ramaphosa says that despite brutal interrogations, he never cooperated with the security police.

Workers train against unemployment

February 13

Demonstrations are held in several cities in protest of rising unemployment, which in 2018 amounted to just over 27 percent in general and to more than 53 percent among people younger than 35 years. In Durban, the manifestation is led by the trade union Cosatu and brings together 6,000 participants. In addition to measures to create jobs, protesters demand an end to state corruption and mismanagement of resources.

New state prosecutor promises force against corruption

February 1st

The country’s new state prosecutor, respected lawyer Shamila Batohi, assumes office and promises to put a stop to corruption and other crimes. She states that she has received assurances from President Ramaphosa that there will be no political pressure on the Prosecutor’s Office. Batohi is the first woman on the record. Her representative, Shaun Abrahams, was accused of having allied with the power during ex-President Zuma’s tenure.

January

Greater transparency regarding party contributions

January 21st

President Ramaphosa signs a law regulating public and private contributions to political parties. According to the law, all parties before the election commission must report what donations they received. The law also sets a ceiling for how large the contributions may be. It is expected that it will take six months for the Election Commission to apply the new law, which means that campaign contributions for the May parliamentary elections will not be regulated.

Minimum wage is introduced

January 1st

The minimum wage is introduced for the first time in the country’s history. The salary is set at US $ 1.39 per hour, giving $ 243 per month. President Ramaphosa says this will lead to millions of South Africans getting better paid while unions are split on the issue. Some of them consider that wages are too low. They are supported by the opposition party on the left side EFF. The largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, criticizes the reform from another point of view. According to the Democratic Alliance, it will cause 750,000 jobs to disappear.

South Africa Industry

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