News in South Africa 26th February:
1. Experts say Covid is here to stay:
Health experts warn that people need to face reality and start coming to terms with the fact that Covid-19 is not going to go away, and that vaccines will not be the silver bullet to eradicate the virus among the global population.
They said that the virus is one of hundreds that exist today, and will likely be around for the rest of our lives.
The vaccines and non-pharmaceutical actions like wearing masks and social distancing are our best bet in building tolerance for the virus and life getting back to normal.
2. Rand slumps due to US bond spikes:
The rand has slumped by 4%, and is now on the wrong side of R15/$ after a surge in the dollar, triggered by nervousness about US bonds.
Yields on 10-year US government bonds spiked to the highest level in a year following weaker-than-expected demand in a bond auction. Investors fear a return of inflation, and fall-out from a surge in US government spending.
Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields vaulted to their highest since the pandemic began on Thursday as the week’s
sell-off in bonds on rising economic expectations and inflation concerns continued, accelerated by a disappointing auction of 7-year notes at midday.
The 10-year yield was up 15.7 basis points at 1.5459%, and touched as high as 1.614%, the highest in a year.
The steepest points sell-off in the safe-haven security since May roiled the stock market, which broke with the more usual recent pattern of rising alongside yields as growing optimism about economic recovery encourages risk-on trading strategies.
A big move came in the early afternoon when an auction for $62 billion of 7-year notes by the U.S. Treasury
showed poor demand, with a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.04, the lowest on record according to a note from DRW Trading market strategist Lou Brien, who called the result “terrible.”
3. Municipalities letting citizens down:
Another citizen group has had enough of their local municipality failing to deliver services, and is now taking it to court to get the municipal manager removed, claiming he is unqualified and has run it into the ground.
A non-profit group called the Centre for Good Governance and Social Justice has brought a case before the same court, asking it to remove the municipal manager of Mamusa Local Municipality in North West province (based in Schweizer-Reneke), arguing that the manager is unqualified for the job and has run it into the ground.
“This court case came about because the municipality was placed under tremendous pressure by one local political faction to employ the manager, despite the fact that the interview panel did not recommend him for the post for want of qualifications and experience,” says Mandla Mpempe, executive director of the Centre for Good Governance and Social Justice.
And it’s not just Mpempe saying that.
A November 2020 legal opinion commissioned by the municipality itself found that Reuben Gincane had been appointed as Mamusa’s municipal manager between 2012 and 2017 despite not having the required qualifications.
The legal opinion on his appointment concludes that his lack of qualifications renders his appointment null and void.
Citizens are getting fed up with government’s repeated failure to deliver basic services, either trying to take over service delivery themselves, or staging localised tax revolts to force municipalities to do their job. So far, the High Court has sided with at least one group of citizens.
4. Vaccines key to economic recovery:
The National Treasury says that South Africa’s access to Covid-19 vaccines will be the key factor to its economic recovery in 2021.
Presenting in parliament on Thursday (25 February), Treasury officials projected real economic growth of 3.3% in 2021, from a low base of -7.2% in 2020. Growth is forecast to moderate to 2.2% in 2022.
“A successful vaccine rollout is likely to boost domestic economic growth, enabling renewed trade and releasing pent-up demand. Conversely, a slow rollout poses the most significant threat to economic recovery,” Treasury said.
“The far-reaching Covid-19 economic impacts exacerbated the poor outcomes of the last decade. Broader structural reforms are required to entrench an economic recovery characterised by growing investment and job creation.”
Treasury said that up to R10.3 billion will be provided for vaccine rollout for the current year, and over the next two years.
While issues such as load shedding and the high rate of unemployment have previously been seen as the country’s biggest risk factors, Treasury officials were relatively upbeat on the progress being made under president Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic recovery plan.
However, they acknowledged that more ‘decisive action’ is needed going forward.
5. Hand sanitiser standards changed:
New standards have been set for alcohol-based hand sanitisers in South Africa, with amendments to the minimum concentration of active ingredients and a list of banned solvents. The new regulations have been issued by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The global use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers has surged in the past year. Medical researchers list the regular washing of hands as one of the most effective non-pharmaceutical interventions in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
National regulations require restaurants, shopping centres and banks to provide hand sanitisation stations for use by clientele.
But the sudden surge demand for effective alcohol-based hand sanitisers has led to some manufacturers falling short of the national standard, making false claims about the concentration of ingredients, and adding counterfeit SABS certification logos to the unverified products.
Due to a rise in consumer complaints and concerns, the bureau has amended the South African National Standard (SANS) 490 approval criteria which is specific to alcohol-based sanitisers for the purposes of disinfecting. This was done in consultation with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) with international guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).