News in South Africa 12th October:
1. Country in the clear as infections drop:
For the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, all nine provinces are through the latest wave of infections and SA is in “a good place”.
This is the view of Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who has become something of a Twitter sensation for his insights and ability to make sense of confusing coronavirus numbers.
Suliman holds a PhD in applied maths from Cambridge University, so while he may not be a medical doctor, numbers, how they work and what they mean are his thing.
So how did he come to the conclusion that the entire country has surfed the third wave and is safely through to a stage where we are now able to watch the numbers come down?
“It’s simple actually — and something we base on current definitions in the country. We look at the case incidents rate, which is the number of current cases per 100,000 of the population. We work on a seven-day rolling average, and when that number declines below 15% of the most recent peak, you can safely say that the province you are measuring is through the wave,” he said.
Past experiences have clearly shown that once an area has moved past an infection peak, the numbers start steadily declining.
A situation of all nine provinces having passed through the third wave and all being on a downward turn is a first.
“With the previous waves the timings varied. Some provinces would peak before others, during or after the peak and then those infections would spread to others while some provinces would lag behind. Since the onset we have always had at least one province in a wave,” Suliman explained.
Having no provinces in a wave means “the country is in a good place in terms of all the indicators for Covid, the rate of transmission is low and the risks overall are lower”.
Suliman believes that the vaccine rate remains too low to have had any sort of significant impact on the numbers.
2. Stadiums open to spectators:
Venues hosting sporting events in South Africa will now be allowed to reopen to spectators, following an amendment to the Disaster Management Act which governs lockdown.
South Africa’s stadiums have been off-limits to sports fans since the country first entered lockdown in March 2020. Now, almost 19 months later, a move to Adjusted Alert Level 1 lockdown amid a drop in active Covid-19 cases will allow spectators to return to sporting venues.
Amendments to the regulations, signed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Sunday, removed the “attendance of any sporting event by spectators” from the list “specific exclusions”.
While the Minister of Sport, Arts & Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, is ultimately responsible for providing further clarity on specific sporting events taking place in South Africa, the new regulations give facilities a right to reopen.
“Spectators at the venue of sports events are permitted but limited to 750 persons or less for indoor venues and 2,000 persons or less for outdoor venues and if the venue is too small to hold the prescribed number of persons observing a distance of at least one and a half metres from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity may be used, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures,” the gazette, published on Monday, notes.
Stadium owners and operators will have to ensure that all health and safety measures are met.
The updated lockdown laws come amid a drop in new Covid-19 infections, the reopening of important international travel routes, the upcoming holiday season, and the launch of a digital Covid-19 vaccine certificate.
3. Imported cement prohibited:
The use of imported cement on government-funded projects has been prohibited by National Treasury from November 4, which will provide a boost to local cement producers.
The announcement resulted in shares in JSE-listed cement and building materials producer PPC surging by 8.98% on Monday to close at R5.34 a share.
Shares in competitor Sephaku Holdings, whose building and construction materials asset portfolio comprises subsidiary Métier Mixed Concrete and associate Dangote Cement South Africa (SepCem), rose by 6% to close at R1.59 a share.
Bryan Perrie, CEO of Cement and Concrete SA (CCSA), the consolidated concrete and cement association, said on Monday the cement industry has lobbied for state protection against cheaper imported cement for several years and is delighted at the designation of cement.
Perry said National Treasury has issued a circular to all relevant state departments advising them of the new ruling in terms of the Preferential Procurement Regulations.
He said the designation prescribes that all organs of state, including state entities such as national, provincial, and local authorities and state-owned enterprises, must from November 4 this year stipulate in tender invitations that only South African produced cement, produced with locally-sourced raw materials, will be allowed for use on all public sector construction projects.
Perry said National Treasury has stipulated a 100% threshold for both common and masonry cements.
“This is an important ruling to protect a sector vitally important for the national economy. Furthermore, it has come at the right time in view of the multi-billion rand infrastructure projects planned by the government over the next three years.”
4. Numsa strike continues:
The National Union of Mineworkers SA (Numsa) is continuing its damaging strike.
Employers in the steel and engineering industry have upped their salary increase offer to striking workers affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) in the hope of ending a damaging strike that’s entering its second week.
The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa), the sector’s largest employer body that represents 18 organisations employing 170,000 workers, has confirmed that an improved wage increase for workers in 2021 has been presented to Numsa officials.
The terms and conditions of the offer have not been made public.
“We have given an undertaking that the revised offer that we have shared with Numsa will not be made public until Numsa responds to the offer. But it is a significant improvement from what was tabled in the original offer,” said Lucio Trentini, CEO of Seifsa.
Seifsa had hoped to secure a meeting with Numsa officials on Monday evening to discuss the improved offer.
Numsa has demanded an across-the-board, backdated salary increase of 8% for one year (2021), then an adjustment of consumer inflation plus 2% for the following two years. This works out to increases of just over 6% for 2022 and 2023. But employers have rejected these demands, instead tabling a 4.4% increase for 2021, an inflation plus 0.5% increase in 2022 and an inflation plus 1% increase in 2023. In turn, Numsa rejected the offer, triggering a national strike that began on 5 October.
Business Maverick was informed by a senior official close to the negotiations that employers have sweetened their offer by nearly two percentage points in 2021, from 4.4% to 6%, which will also be offered to the lowest-earning workers in the industry. This latest offer has pitched salary increases of between 5% to 6% — depending on the employment and skills level of workers.
Numsa confirmed that an improved offer had been tabled. “Numsa members are deliberating on an offer proposed by Siefsa. It is an improvement on the 4.4% offered by employers. We are waiting on members to give feedback about how they feel about the offer. If they accept it, the strike will be over. If they reject it, the strike continues,” said Numsa national spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.
5. 1 November a public holiday:
President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that 1 November will be a national public holiday due to the local government elections.
“The president calls on all registered voters to use the opportunity of the public holiday to exercise their democratic right and civic duty by voting in this election that empowers citizens to elect new leadership and influence service delivery where they live,” the presidency said in a statement on Monday (12 October).
“Voters are reminded as well that they will be able to cast their votes only at the polling stations in wards where they are registered. In the event that voters may consider travel, they will not be able to transfer their votes to voting stations away from their designated wards.”
“The president urges voters to ensure that they adhere to the Covid-19 health regulations as they exercise their vote,” it said.
Ramaphosa’s approval of the public holiday takes South Africa’s total public holidays in 2021 to 15 – including an additional two days off to celebrate public holidays which fall over a weekend.
The public holidays for 2021, according to the official government proclamation, are as follows:
- 1 January: New Year’s Day
- 21 March: Human Rights Day
- 22 March: Public holiday
- 2 April: Good Friday
- 5 April: Family Day
- 27 April: Freedom Day
- 1 May: Workers’ Day
- 16 June: Youth Day
- 9 August: National Women’s Day
- 24 September: Heritage Day
- 1 November: National elections*
- 16 December: Day of Reconciliation
- 25 December: Christmas Day
- 26 December: Day of Goodwill
- 27 December: Public holiday