News in South Africa 14th October:
1. State of disaster continues:
South Africa will remain in a national state of disaster on Covid-19 until at least 15 November 2021, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced on Wednesday, except in the unlikely event that it is cancelled early.
That state of disaster was first declared on 15 March 2020, which will take its total duration to 20 months, or 610 days – with dwindling chances that it will not be extended again into December, and likely into 2022.
Dlamini Zuma made the extension formal by publication in the Government Gazette, the only step required to maintain the legal umbrella under which all current lockdown rules are enforced, from curfew to the risk of criminal prosecution for failing to wear a mask in public.
The emergency powers granted by the continued state of disaster is also what ministers previously used to ban the sale of roast chickens, and cigarettes, and haircuts, to set strict conditions for visiting Gauteng, and to decree exactly what kinds of winter clothing shoppers could buy, at various points in time.
The extension was, again, “taking into account the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to address the impact of the disaster”, said Dlamini Zuma in the notice.
Officially, government’s target remains to “immunise” – so administer both doses in the case of a two-dose vaccine – 67% of the population by the end of 2021.
With the now standard two-week waiting period after the final dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to be deemed fully vaccinated, that leaves just over two months to vaccinate another 16.3 million people.
2. Load shedding suspended:
Load shedding suspended but underlying generation capacity does not look good.
It is not clear publicly just how bad the picture is across Eskom’s aging coal power station fleet.
The utility has not published a weekly system status report since the start of October and its public data portal has not been updated since last Wednesday.
It says there has been a “fairly significant failure of the data support system” but that this “will be resolved soon”. It is unclear whether this and the failure to update its weekly system status reports are related.
What we do know is that Eskom is currently barely managing to generate 26 000 megawatts (MW) of power to meet peak demand in the evenings.
Factoring in the contribution from renewable generation at the peak, there remains a shortfall of between 3 000MW and 4 000MW to meet demand.
To avoid Stage 4 load shedding this week – where 4 000MW of demand is removed – it is relying on most of its 14 open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) peaking plants and is cutting supply to its large industrial customers, including South 32’s aluminium smelters near Richards Bay. On Monday, it removed 1 200MW of supply to these customers.
Eskom implemented Stage 2 (a shortfall of 2 000MW) load shedding from Friday (October 8). At that point, it said this would be until Thursday, October 14, at 5am. However, generating capacity has not improved materially since then.
Its 14 OCGT plants can generate up to 2 067MW of power. So far this week, it has been supplementing its baseload generation capacity at peak with as much as 1 800MW from these plants.
Its coal fleet is producing no more than 20 000MW of electricity at the peak. The number is more than likely around 19 000MW.
3. Removal from red list opens up tourism:
South Africa’s removal from the UK’s travel red list on 11 October has resulted in a flood of travel enquiries and bookings, says the Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG).
In the hours and days following the announcement, the group said that the UK has quickly become the most booked international destination for South Africans.
It noted that Mauritius and Dubai had been the two most booked international destinations for South Africans before the UK’s travel restrictions were eased.
Mauritius opened its country up for travellers on 1 October 2021, with fully vaccinated South Africans allowed to stay at any hotel, resort or accommodation of their choice and move freely around the island.
Unvaccinated travellers have to undergo 14 days of quarantine in a state-designated quarantine facility. The UAE opened travel to South Africans at the end of June. Passengers are required to take a PCR test before leaving and on arrival at Dubai International airport.
“We have been inundated with enquiries for travel to the UK since the long-overdue announcement by the British government on Thursday evening,” said Andrew Stark, FCTG managing director.
“There’s been a massive spike in enquiries and bookings across our retail travel booking channels and brands, including on our website, in our Flight Centre stores and through Flight Centre Independent.”
The number of new air tickets issued from South Africa with London as the final destination has increased fivefold since 7 October, said Sue Garrett, general manager Supply, Pricing and Marketing at FCTG.
British Citizens coming to South Africa:
South Africa’s beleaguered tourism sector is preparing for an influx of British visitors ahead of the busy summer season. This comes amid the United Kingdom’s decision to ease travel restrictions between the two countries.
The UK has traditionally been South Africa’s largest source market for tourists. More than 430,000 UK tourists visited South Africa in 2019, representing almost 30% of all European arrivals. It’s estimated that UK tourists pump up to R790 million into the economy every month during the busy season.
Interest in South African summer vacations has surged, with travel agencies and tour operators reporting a flurry of bookings. Some of these even came in anticipation of South Africa being removed from the red list.
“The number of quotes this [last] week [between 4 and 8 October] was the highest in 19 months, with quotes from the UK up 150% and confirmed bookings up 100% on the same week a month prior,” Craig Smith, the CEO of New Frontiers Tours, told Business Insider South Africa.
4. Insurrection plot progress:
Police minister Bheki Cele is confident that, eventually, police will get to the bottom of the failed insurrection in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July.
“We are not about to pass on it. We are coming close to [solving] it,” said Cele in an interview on Wednesday.
Cele was referring to the unrest that swept across the two provinces, leading to mass damage of infrastructure and the deaths of more than 300 people.
The protests started in KwaZulu-Natal as a show of force by former president Jacob Zuma’s supporters demanding his immediate release after his imprisonment at the Estcourt detention centre. Scores of people blockaded trucks on the N3 freeway preventing them from entering or leaving the province, while others targeted malls looting everything in sight and, in some instances, burning them to the ground.
Public criticism of security cluster ministers over the incident led to President Cyril Ramaphosa making radical changes to his cabinet. Ramaphosa labelled the mayhem an “insurrection”, while former defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula publicly contradicted him. Former state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo and Cele also publicly clashed over an intelligence report related to the looting and riots.
Among those who have appeared in court for allegedly being the masterminds of the unrest include former Ukhozi radio DJ Ngizwe Mchunu, Patriotic Alliance leader Bruce Nimmerhoudt, Sibusiso Mavuso, Clarence Tabane, Bonginkosi Khanyile, Ndumiseni Zuma and a 36-year-old woman who operated as “Sphithiphithi Evaluator” @AfricanSoil on Twitter and has 59,900 followers.
On Wednesday, Cele said: “There are 18 people arrested, [their cases] are at different levels. I think some are charged with treason and others with incitement. Others are known, there are advocates and among those is the most popularly known as ‘Sphithiphithi’. Those investigations are continuing.
5. New e-toll info deadline:
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula promises a new deadline for the Gauteng e-toll matter to be resolved.
He now says that the government is “determined” to see the issue laid to rest before the end of the year, with some form of an announcement expected during the mid-term budget in November.
Mbalula has previously promised a resolution on the matter several times since 2019 but delivered nothing.
Gauteng motorists continue to ignore the system, while road agency Sanral racks up debt and suffers losses due to the government’s dithering. The state’s official position on e-tolls flip-flops depending on who you ask about it.