News in South Africa 11th January:
1. Schooling in 2022 discussed:
Representatives of SA’s five teacher unions will be meeting Wits University vaccinology professor Shabir Madhi on Friday to get an update on the Covid-19 pandemic and the implications for schooling.
This comes as schools in inland provinces — Gauteng, the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West — reopened for teachers on Monday. Pupils in these provinces will start the academic year on Wednesday, while their counterparts in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape will return on January 19.
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said the intention of Friday’s meeting with Madhi was to get an update “so that we can talk more about schooling 2022”.
“It’s about the modalities [rotational learning] that are being used at the moment and whether they should stay. We have our own concerns about the sustainability of the present modalities,” he said.
“We are in trouble when it comes to learning losses and we would like to see as many of our kids full-time at school as possible. But that can only happen if we ensure that the other safety measures are there.”
He said they were aware that the one-metre social distancing requirement in the classroom was not possible for all schools.
“We have to ask if there is still justification for rotational classes.”
While former Model C schools were able to allow all pupils back last year because of having more classrooms and teachers, many pupils at no-fee schools were still after the rotational timetable.
Madhi confirmed that it will be “an information-sharing meeting about where we are in the pandemic and implications for schooling”.
2. Matric results delayed and no longer public:
Matriculants are anxious about the release of the results of the 2021 matric exams, which have been delayed to 21 January 2022.
The education department says it is on track to deliver the results by this date, saying that the delays were due to the 2021 elections and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Universities are aware of the delays and have structured their programmes and registration processes accordingly.
The Department of Basic Education has announced that matric exam results will no longer be published on media platforms, in line with the recently introduced Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
In a statement, the department said that publishing personal information online would be a contravention of the Act. It confirmed that matric results are still scheduled to release on 21 January 2022 and that results would still be available from schools.
Historically, the matric results have been made widely available with students identified through their ID numbers.
“In order to comply with the provisions of the POPIA, the usual practice of publishing the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results on public platforms (media platforms) will not occur for 2021,” it said.
“As was also the practice in previous years, all learners will be required to obtain their statement of results from the schools they attended. In this way, every learner’s personal information with regards to the outcome of their National Senior Certificate exam will be protected.”
Education experts have already warned that the difficult circumstances faced by matriculants are likely to result in a drop in marks. In 2020, the overall matric pass rate was 76.2%, substantially lower than the previous year’s 81.3%. It was also worse than 78.2% in 2018.
3. PCR tests for tourists could be scrapped:
International travellers visiting South Africa need to present a negative PCR test result not older than 72 hours from the time of departure. No exceptions are made for the fully vaccinated and rapid antigen tests don’t count.
That could be changing – though there are no guarantees just yet, and things aren’t moving fast enough for everyone’s liking.
The department of health this week confirmed to Business Insider South Africa that it had received proposals to scrap testing for fully vaccinated travellers or, at the very least, include rapid antigen tests as an option.
Spokesperson Foster Mohale noted that the debate surrounding testing requirements was not something new and although the department of health had received proposals, the decision to change regulations rested with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
“Some are proposing that we accept the antigen test [and] these are proposals that we are still processing,” Mohale told Business Insider SA.
“Once we have [discussed] them with the NCCC [and] if they are endorsed then we’ll be able to announce [changes] but it is true that we have received such proposals… but as of now, the status quo remains. There are no changes.”
Many in the tourism sector have been pushing hard for a radical change to South Africa’s approach.
Dropping the mandatory requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to visit South Africa will go a long way in aiding the tourism sector’s recovery, they argue.
Fully vaccinated travellers shouldn’t face any barriers, in the form of either Covid-19 testing or mandatory quarantine. This is the view held by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which, in its paper on restarting global travel, published in November, proposed that pre-departure testing should enable those without access to vaccines to travel.
This sentiment was raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) back in July 2021 as part of a public policy consideration document which urged countries to adopt a risk-based approach when implementing and updating travel regulations.
International travellers should not be considered as a priority group for Covid-19 testing and those who’ve been fully vaccinated should be exempt from heightened travel restrictions, according to the WHO. Additionally, policies for testing and quarantine should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are lifted when they are no longer necessary.
The UK no longer requires fully vaccinated travellers to provide a negative PCR test result before travelling to England and has, instead, moved to a cheaper, quicker post-arrival rapid antigen – or lateral flow – test. Ireland recently scrapped all testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering the country. Germany has done the same.
And for those countries that still require some proof, the rapid antigen test, which is less than half the cost of a PCR with results available within 30 minutes, is commonly permitted as an alternative.
4. Joburg electricity woes:
Fixed fees and electricity price hikes are making life for Joburg residents hell when it comes to affordable power, with a price comparison showing that post-paid residential customers in the city are getting a raw deal.
An increase of 31% in fixed charges levied by Johannesburg’s City Power for electricity over the last two years means that postpaid (credit) customers now don’t even get 100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of usage for R1 000. Less than 100kWh is an astonishingly low amount.
The two fixed monthly charges – a network charge and capacity charge – totalled R631.16 including value-added tax (Vat) per month in 2019/20. Today, they total R825.32. This is charged by the metro’s utility regardless of how much electricity is consumed.
An analysis by Moneyweb in 2019 revealed that Joburg residents who are serviced by City Power and are not on prepaid continued to pay the most for electricity among the country’s major metros.
But comparing the cost of power at just R1 000 in spending is not entirely fair.
Comparing the amount of electricity received for R2 000 removes the distortion of those high fixed charges somewhat.
At that level, customers in Joburg receive about the same amount of electricity as those in eThekwini.
This is due to the latter’s high price per kWh on its basic tariff plan (rates on time-of-use plans that require smart meters are more reasonable). At these more elevated levels of usage, eThekwini tariffs are as pricey as City Power’s.
Apples-with-apples comparison all but impossible
The way tariffs are designed across the various metros differs greatly:
- Some have fixed charges, others don’t;
- Some have flat-rated tariffs regardless of usage;
- Those that charge different rates depending on levels of usage (so-called inclining block tariffs) don’t all use the same sized blocks;
- Tshwane used to bill seasonally with different rates for summer and winter, but this has changed since 2019; and
- Eskom is included, as sizeable areas in Joburg (Sandton and Soweto) are supplied directly by the utility.
Rather than attempt to compare the base tariff, in other words the cents per kWh rate, the methodology used here is to calculate how much electricity a household will receive for two amounts: R1 000 and R2 000.
Again, as pointed out in 2019, this is the lived experience of customers.
Importantly, fixed charges on some tariff structures distort matters, making a simple comparison between the rates per kWh meaningless. This methodology removes this distortion.
|Amount of electricity households receive (2021/22)|
|Tariff||R1 000||R2 000|
|Eskom Homepower 4||440kWh||862kWh|
|Cape Town Domestic1||367kWh||710kWh|
|Cape Town Home User2||335kWh||710kWh|
|City of Joburg City Power prepaid||491kWh||884kWh|
|City of Joburg City Power residential||93kWh||606kWh|
|Ekurhuleni Tariff A (prepaid/credit)||548kWh||768kWh|
|Ekurhuleni Tariff B (prepaid/credit)||349kWh||722kWh|
* All kWh amounts rounded down* All amounts include Vat* Excludes indigent households1 For houses valued at more than R400 000 but less than R1 million2 For houses valued at more than R1 million
The situation in Joburg is bizarre and increasingly untenable: postpaid/credit customers pay among the most for electricity across metros, while prepaid customers pay among the least.
5. New car sales up 22%:
Over the past year, some 462 122 new vehicles were sold in South Africa – 22% more than when the pandemic-hit 2020.
But while sales of heavy trucks and buses are back above pre-pandemic levels, other vehicle sales are still lower than before 2020. Some 303 961 new passengers cars were sold in 2021, compared to 353 379 in 2019.
“It was a very satisfying performance by an industry that has had to deal with numerous challenges over the course of the year, ranging from global supply chain disruptions, insufficient model availability, persistent load-shedding, escalating logistics cost, as well as several domestic shocks,” the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) said in a statement.
The domestic disruptions included civil unrest, the cyberattack on Transnet operations, the three-week strike in the steel and engineering sector, renewed lockdown restrictions, record fuel prices and the first interest increase in three years. All of these “did not deter sales too much”, Naamsa found.
“Overall, market conditions in the new passenger car and light commercial vehicle market continued to be characterised by a buying down trend, with sales of pre-owned vehicles offering the most enticing option during the year.”
Naamsa reported an uptick in activity among vehicle rental companies, which is a major seasonal contributor to the new vehicle market. This supported passenger car sales during the second half of the year as overseas visitors came to South Africa.
New vehicle sales fell during December 2021 by 3.5% compared to the same month in 2020, but while other vehicle categories declined, sales of passenger cars increased by 1.7%.
Toyota (9 580) was the top new vehicle seller, followed by Volkswagen (5 131) and Hyundai (2 892) in December.