News in South Africa 15th April:
1. National state of disaster extended:
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has announced the extension of South Africa’s national state of disaster by a further month.
In a gazette published on Wednesday (14 April), Dlamini-Zuma said that the state of disaster will now continue until 15 May 2021.
South Africa declared a national state of disaster under Section 27(1) and Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act on 15 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the state of disaster was originally set to lapse on 15 June 2020, the act provides that it can be extended by the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) minister by notice in the gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.
2. J&J wants govt letter of support:
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says Johnson & Johnson won’t sign off on the 20 million Covid-19 vaccines doses for the country until they get a letter expressing support for their investment in local pharmaceutical brand Aspen.
The company has told the government not supplying the letter makes their global leadership nervous and is viewed as not showing political support for its plans.
3. Monetary policy stimulus to peak this year:
South Africa’s central bank sees the impact of its unprecedented monetary policy stimulus peaking this year and boosting expansion for years to come.
While the monetary policy committee cut its benchmark rate by 275 basis points in early 2020 to a record-low 3.5% to counter the effect of the coronavirus, the changes are still filtering through to the economy and will linger in the system for some time, boosting growth in the outer years.
While measuring the precise impact of policy-rate cuts on growth is difficult, and the current times are by no means normal, with higher-than-usual uncertainty, these effects should be expected to carry through, as the pickup in mortgage applications suggests, the monetary policy committee stated.
The MPC sees Africa’s most-industrialized economy rebounding 3.8% in 2021, after contracting the most in a century last year because of the virus and restrictions to curb its spread. Domestically, the risk of a third wave of Covid-19 infections and slow rollout of vaccines that would lead to a reintroduction of stricter lockdown measures and ongoing electricity supply constraints could weigh on output.
Still, the projection model shows limited scope to support the economy further as consumer-price growth is set to temporarily breach the midpoint of its 3%-6% target range in the second quarter of this year. Returning it to 4.5%, the point at which the MPC prefers to anchor inflation expectations, will require rates normalisation to close the gap between the benchmark interest rate and inflation, it said.
4. Annual retail sales increased:
Annual retail sales increased by 2.3% year-on-year in February, Statistics South Africa announced on Wednesday.
This is the first annual increase in ten months since April 2020, when retail sales plummeted to the largest decline on record at 50.4% lower than the same month in 2019.
February saw more retail activity as schools opened and the country received its first batch of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and officially started the Sisonke vaccination programme.
January retail sales decreased 3.5% year-on-year.
Seasonally adjusted retail trade sales increased by 6.9% in February 2021 compared to January 2021. This followed month-on-month changes of -2.4% in January 2021 and -0.1% in December 2020.
5. Land invasion on the rise:
The Western Cape Human Settlements Department said that there had been just over 1,000 attempts of illegal land occupations over the past nine months.
The department said that the majority of these occurred in Cape Town, between July last year to the second week of April in 2021.
The department said it had now spent more than R355 million to prevent illegal land occupations and the occupation of completed units.
MEC Tertius Simmers said that this meant with the exclusion of the bulk services, more than 2,100 free housing units could have been built. “These illegal land [occupations] remain of great concern to the Western Cape government because they impact on our ability to deliver housing opportunities to already identified, deserving, qualified and potential beneficiaries.”