News in South Africa 11th December:

1. South Africa’s 2023 in review:

With 2023 coming to a close, Business Leadership South Africa CEO Busiswe Mavuso has looked at the progress South Africa has made during the year and the setbacks.

South Africa’s 2023 in review
Photo by Roger Brown

The good

Despite a record year of load shedding, there has been progress in the electricity crisis, with Nersa receiving registrations of 4.1GW of new generation through roughly R111 billion investment.

That capacity is gradually coming on stream, whilst around 4GW of small-scale generation has also been added, as businesses and households have taken advantage of the solar tax incentives and the dropping cost of solar.

Although the latest GDP figures for Q3 2023 recorded a slight contraction, the economy has proven incredibly resilient to load shedding with yearly GDP growth recorded.

“It has not all been positive – a clear problem is constant delays in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme, which has gone from the envy of the world in effective power procurement to barely managing to procure any new electricity this year,” Mavuso said.

“Some are declaring the end of the programme, but its role in acquiring new utility-scale electricity production remains important.”

“Add to that two other fronts where we need to continue making progress: the unbundling and establishment of an independent system operator out of Eskom, and the publishing of an updated Integrated Resource Plan that sets out a rational least cost vision for energy development in the country for the future.”

That said, Mavuso has welcomed the appointment of new Eskom CEO Dan Marokane, who she hopes will help accelerate the creation of the grid operator and improve the overall performance of the entity.

“I congratulate Mr Marokane on his appointment and look forward to working with him. “Business and Eskom have established a good working relationship that has allowed us to, for example, fast-track the return to service of Kusile units 1 and 3.”

The bad

However, the logistics crisis has now become the next major challenge for the economy, with South Africa’s ports facing a major backlog currently, reducing the amount of materials we can export.

“There are many reasons, from theft and vandalism to poor maintenance, but the impact is now clear in our economic growth numbers, which are showing falling sales and production of commodities and other goods because of the crisis,” she said.

She is hopeful that the National Logistics Crisis Committee can learn from the successes in the electricity sector and help get greater private sector participation in logistics.

In addition, the health sector is getting worse without the prospect of recovery following the passing of the National Health Insurance Bill by the National Council of Provinces, with Mavuso, like many health industry professionals, saying that the Bill is unworkable.

“It will never be implemented. Yet the pretence of trying to make it work is doing serious damage. It has created uncertainty for the health sector, leading to delays in investing. Medical professionals, who can work anywhere in the world, face yet another reason to exit,” she said.

“There is serious damage being done to both the private and public health systems as a result as the government attempts to set up a single-payer fund to acquire all significant health services in the country, effectively destroying the private health system in the process, without any plan on how capacity will be created in the public health service.”

With the Bill now before President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent, she said that there is still an opportunity to change course with the private and public sectors working together – much like they did during the Covid-19 pandemic.

2. NHI could see Doctors close practices:

South African doctors and specialists have announced that they would rather close their practices than work under the government’s National Health Insurance (NHI).

This was revealed by Solidarity’s medical professional networks, which the union said skyrocketed because of concerns surrounding the NHI.

The NHI bill was recently approved by the National Council of Provinces (NRP), and it now only requires President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signature to become law.

Peirru Marx, network coordinator of Solidarity’s medical networks, said medical doctors who are members of the Solidarity Doctors’ Network vehemently oppose the NHI bill.

“Our research shows that medical professionals do not support the NHI. They do not want to be part of it,” Marx said.

“They know it is an election gimmick, and in reality, conditions will be much worse for South Africans under the NHI.”

He said healthcare practitioners witnessed how corruption, deterioration and mismanagement hamper the public healthcare system.

A study conducted among doctors by the Solidarity Research Institute (SNI) found that they would leave the country in large numbers if the NHI was implemented.

  • 94% of respondents believe private health practitioners may decide to work abroad because of NHI.
  • 47% indicated that they would start the emigration process as soon as the NHI is accepted in South Africa.
  • 19% said that they had already initiated the process to emigrate.
  • 0% of medical practitioners are optimistic about the NHI.

Marx says although the NHI’s unworkability and unaffordability provide enough reason to abandon the NHI plans immediately, this is not the end of concerns.

“There has not been a significant increase in the number of doctors produced in the past ten years. Moreover, we now produce 58% fewer nursing students than in 2012,” he said.

Solidarity’s concerns echo those of the South African Medical Association (SAMA) and the South African Healthcare Professionals Collaboration (SAHPC).

SAMA said medical professionals were not adequately consulted and warned about an exodus of doctors because of the looming NHI.

SAMA chairperson Mvuyisi Mzukwa told SABC News they support the concept of universal healthcare but disputed whether the NHI Bill will achieve this goal.

He pointed to the crumbling public healthcare system, with dilapidated hospitals, a lack of resources, and a shortage of qualified staff.

The SAHPS said the NHI Bill and how it has been railroaded through parliament is an embarrassment as it is unimplementable, unaffordable, and unconstitutional.

The SAHPC’s biggest concern is that the NHI does not include any reform of the public healthcare system, which fails to provide adequate healthcare to South Africans.

“There are huge concerns around corruption. Huge concerns around maladministration and misappropriation of funds. The current healthcare budget is effectively wasted,” it said.

3. Post Office to stop social grant payments:

Social grant beneficiaries will not be able to make physical cash withdrawals inside South African Post Offices (Sapo) or from other cash payment points (CPP) from the end of March next year, as the entity looks to improve its service offerings.

The Postbank and Sassa released a joint statement on Monday announcing plans to begin the phasing-out process in January 2024.

Social grant beneficiaries who currently make use of the cash withdrawal systems and CPPs will now be required to use their Sassa Gold Cards to facilitate transactions at retail points or bank ATMs.

“The decision to transition away from cash distribution at CPPs was announced in 2018 and is grounded in a commitment to improve overall customer experience,” the joint statement noted.

“Factors such as escalating cash-in-transit heists, unfavourable conditions at some of the CPP sites, and the closure and capacity challenges at many Post Offices drove this strategic move.”

“By migrating beneficiaries to the other National Payment System (NPS) access channels, we are solving these challenges proactively,” the statement added.

This latest development follows days after the Post Office’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) outlined several measures aimed at restoring the financial health of the state-owned entity.

In their business rescue plan, which received creditor approval, BRPs noted plans to reduce the Post Office’s footprint to some 600 branches. BRPs also outlined plans to phase out over-the-counter payment services and CPPs because of the “drain” the services pose on Sapo’s resources.

4. 10K police officers for festive season:

Police Minister Bheki Cele said that the recruitment of 10,000 new police officers would help improve police visibility over the festive season.

Ten thousand officers are set to formally join the police service from Friday after completing their training in the recruitment programme, Project 10K.

Cele was briefing the media on law enforcement-related matters in Pretoria on Sunday, where he also outlined the successes of Operation Shanela.

He said that there would be more boots on the ground to help fight crime this holiday season.

“These officers will be deployed to sanitise the streets and increase the footprint of police in all nine provinces. Their deployment will be prioritised especially in high crowd zones and places of entertainment this holiday season.”

5. Load shedding undermines rights:

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says the government has accepted a High Court finding that load shedding undermines South Africans’ rights.

He added, however, that the government is now seeking legal advice on the “intricacies” of the court-imposed deadline to provide power to public schools and hospitals as well as police stations by the end of January.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, DailyInvestor, Moneyweb, EWN, and Fin24.

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