News in South Africa 12th April:

1. 2 New omicron variants:

Tulio de Oliveira, who runs gene-sequencing institutions in South Africa, says that scientists in the country have discovered two new sublineages of the omicron coronavirus variant.

2 New omicron variants
Image taken by: Laura James

The lineages have been named BA.4 and BA.5, he said by text message and in a series of tweets.

Still, de Oliveira said, the lineages have not caused a spike in infections in South Africa and have been found in samples from a number of countries, Bloomberg reported.

New Omicron BA.4 & BA.5 detected in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and U.K. Early indications that these new sublineages are increasing as a share of genomically confirmed cases in SA. No cause for alarm as no major spike in cases, admissions or deaths in SA

South Africa meanwhile has administered 34,146,981 vaccine doses with 5,845 administered on Monday.

The figure includes 8,333,395 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and 25,813,586 Pfizer vaccines administered to date in South Africa.

The number of people who were fully vaccinated in the last 24 hours is 1,967, and this includes 867 Johnson & Johnson and 801 Pfizer vaccines.

The NICD noted that 11,154 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, with 553 new cases, which represents a 5.0% positivity rate.

The Department of Health reported two deaths; of which one occurred in the past 24–48 hrs. Total fatalities are 100,098 to date, it said.

The majority of new cases are from Gauteng Province (50%), followed by Western Cape (18%). KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 17%; Mpumalanga accounted for 5%; Eastern Cape and Limpopo each accounted for 3%.

2. Loadshedding continues:

Eskom has announced that stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from 17h00 on Tuesday (12 April) afternoon until 05h00 on Wednesday.

The power utility warned the public that this constrained supply situation will persist throughout the week, with the possibility that more load shedding is likely to be implemented should the generation capacity deteriorate further.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy says that capitulating and granting high tariff increases to Eskom is rewarding inefficiency – warning that as prices climb ever higher, manufacturers and other businesses will choose to export their processes or leave, which will damage tax revenues in the country and push unemployment higher.

Eskom has been granted a 9.6% tariff hike for this year, with the power utility demanding even higher increases in the years ahead.

Schedules 

Eskom has warned in a load shedding forecast for 2021/2022, that its system is likely to remain severely constrained for the near future.

For people living in the major metros, load shedding schedules are available here:

For access to other load shedding schedules, Eskom has made them available on loadshedding.eskom.co.za.

Smartphone users can also download the app EskomSePush to receive push notifications when load shedding is implemented, as well as the times the area you are in will be off.

3. Chicken prices soaring:

The price of chicken, which has already seen a jump of 17% over one year, will become more unaffordable if trade tariffs aren’t scrapped, the South African Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) has said.

The association is calling on the South African government to purge all trade tariffs on chicken products and place a three-year moratorium on all new tariffs to ensure consumers can still afford chicken. The association, which represents meat and poultry exporters and importers, also calls for VAT on chicken to be removed.

If trade tariffs alone are removed, consumers stand to save about 33% on bone-in products and between 18-20% on chicken offal products, Paul Matthew, CEO at AMIE, said.

“South Africans are under extreme financial pressure. As a country, we have to do everything possible to arrest poultry price increases, and the quickest and most effective way to do this is for the government to give the South African consumers relief by placing a three-year moratorium on imported poultry tariffs and the removal of VAT on poultry products,” said Matthew.

Chicken in South Africa is a staple protein and one of the most affordable meat options. According to the South African Poultry Association, South Africa consumed more than 2.3 million tons of poultry meat and related products in 2020.

Import tariffs on poultry were increased to 62% from 37% for frozen bone-in chicken portions in March 2020. For frozen boneless chicken portions, taxes rose to 42% from 12%. Frozen bone in chicken portions are mostly consumed by lower income groups in South Africa.

In December 2021, the government also introduced new provisional duties on poultry from Brazil, a top-three supplier for South Africa, and Spain, Denmark, Poland, and Ireland. The duties range from 6% to as much as 265% and will remain in place until June 14 2022. 

Donald MacKay, a trade economist, and director at XA International Trade Advisors said a concoction of factors, including rising fuel and feed prices and the war in Ukraine, will inflate chicken prices and other items.

4. NDP performs poorly:

The current National Planning Commission (NPC) says it has no choice but to focus on the reasons for the “weak” implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP). This follows findings from a recent NDP review that point to a poor performance track record since its adoption in 2012.

According to the previous NPC, the plan, initially expected to be fully implemented by 2030, is unlikely to meet many of the goals with its current development trajectory.

Speaking at a briefing, commission deputy chair Professor Tinyiko Maluleke said the third NPC “begins its term at a precarious moment in our country’s history”.

The current NPC was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in December 2021 and has been tasked to “provide thought leadership, evidence-based advice, foresight and futuristic planning as well as sustainable solutions that inspire and guide the national development trajectory”.

When the plan was affected almost 10 years ago, the unemployment rate was anticipated to fall from 27% in 2011 to 14% by 2022 and 6% by 2030.

The plan also included a reduction in the proportion of people living below the lower bound poverty line from 39% of the population to zero in 2030.

However, the unemployment rate now stands at 35.3% – the highest since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008 – and shows little to no prospect of a 6% unemployment rate by 2030.

Maluleke noted that the impact of Covid-19, and negative economic growth coupled with inequality, crime and lack of government support, influenced the slow progress made towards achieving NDP targets.

“If implementation is slow or non-existent, planning alone is clearly insufficient.

“Given that ours is a tenure that is closest to the finish line of 2030, we cannot afford to be dismissive, smug or philosophical about implementation,” he said.

“Our task is to call the country back to the NDP.”

Maluleke says the third NPC is responsible for enhancing the government’s ability to identify and implement development priorities which will assist in attaining the goals of the NDP.

5. SA softening to Ukraine:

45 days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian ambassador has met with the director-general of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

The department has reportedly softened its neutral stance on the war as evidence of Russia’s atrocities during the invasion, including allegations of various war crimes.

South Africa has maintained a neutral stance and has failed to identify Russia as the aggressor.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is said to be closer to securing a phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.


All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Fin24, Business Insider, Moneyweb, and BusinessLive.

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