News in South Africa 15th December:

1. New festive season lockdown restrictions:

On Tuesday morning, government gazetted the new regulations for the festive season (until 3 January) that are effective immediately.

New festive season lockdown restrictions
“Doctor or Nurse Wearing Medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Against The Flag Of South Africa” by is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The new regulations compel all district municipalities to publish on their websites and in the local media information about areas with high infection rates within the district. The notices must be updated as soon as new information becomes available.

District municipalities must “alert communities within that district of the increasing number of infections that could lead to that district being declared a hotspot”.

While the curfew starts at 22:00 in hotspot areas, in the rest of the country, everyone must be in their place of residence from 23:00 until 04:00 daily.

Retail sales of alcohol will only be allowed from 10:00 to 18:00 on Mondays to Thursdays. This does not apply to duty-free shops, and registered wineries and wine farms may continue to sell alcohol during the same hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Beaches in the Eastern Cape, and in the Garden Route District, will be closed to the public from 16 December until 3 January.

All beaches in KwaZulu-Natal will be closed to the public on 16, 25, 26 and 31 December 2020 and 1, 2 and 3 January 2021.

Beaches in the Northern Cape and the Western Cape provinces (excluding the Garden Route District beaches) will be open, but only between 09:00 and 18:00.

Festivals, live music, live performances and loud music at beaches are prohibited, and the beaches will be monitored for mask-wearing and social distancing measures.

“Non-compliance with the prohibitions, conditions, days of opening of beaches, and wearing of face masks and social distancing measures, will result in the closure of those non-complying beaches throughout the festive season.”

2. Eskom in need of funds:

Eskom needs money, says CEO Andre de Ruyter – and one way or another, South Africans are going to pay up. The chief executive said it is a choice between continued taxpayer subsidies to fund the company, or it adopts more cost-reflective tariffs.

A tariff hike to meet these levels would see prices increase 28% – though de Ruyter says that it should be implemented in a staggered way. The group forecasts a full year loss of R22 billion as it continues to struggle to get its finances under control.

“We either require cost-effective tariffs… or we need a substantial injection of equity to reduce our debt burden.” said André de Ruyter, Chief Operating Officer (CEO) at Eskom. “… our debt burden is extraordinarily high… We can either choose between continued taxpayer subsidies – which don’t even touch the principal debt – or we can move to cost-reflective tariffs…”

3. Lockdown woes affect markets:

Markets trended lower overnight amid concerns about new lockdown measures. Germany and Netherlands announced new lockdowns, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio cautioned that the city should prepare for another full shutdown to slow the virus’s spread.

The rand firmed 0.6% ahead of the address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the government’s response to the pandemic on Monday, settling within the trading range it has held since the weekend.

On Tuesday the rand started at R15.06 to the dollar, R18.29 to the euro and R20.07 to the pound.

4. No rewrite makes exam results questionable:

Basic education director general Mathanzima Mweli said on Monday that the high court’s ruling on Friday that set aside the rewrite of two matric exam papers that had been leaked has “plunged” education into an “unprecedented crisis”.

Because the department did not know the extent of the leak of the maths paper two and physical science paper two the most logical thing was to have grade 12s rewrite the exams, Mweli said in a recorded statement. He said the “credibility, the integrity, the reliability and the fairness of the examination is at stake” following the judgment on Friday by Pretoria high court judge Norman Davis, who  set aside the decision to rewrite and declared it unlawful.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga announced the decision to rewrite the two subjects that were leaked hours before they were written two weeks ago. She had said the decision was arrived at after a preliminary investigation, which could not establish the extent of the leak and that a rewrite was a way to preserve the integrity of the matric exams.

Four applicants —  individual learners, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and lobby group AfriForum  — brought an urgent application before the court asking that the decision be reviewed, set aside and declared unconstitutional.

Davis ruled that the argument that the small percentage of learners who had access to the two papers has “irrevocably damaged the integrity” of the papers, which meant that the results cannot be certified by quality assurer Umalusi, cannot be sustained and therefore it was not justified to subject “hundreds of thousand of innocent learners” to a rewrite.

5. Oil prices jump:

Oil prices climbed yesterday after a tanker exploded in a Saudi Arabian port. Brent crude was last trading almost 2% higher at above $50 per barrel.

Fuel prices are set for hefty rises at month-end if current trends continue. This is the word from the Automobile Association (AA) which was commenting on unaudited mid-month fuel price data released by the Central Energy Fund.

“It’s been a good month for the rand so far, with the local currency picking up around 15c against the US dollar, but the basic fuel price has shot up since the start of December, raising the spectre of quite substantial fuel price rises if there isn’t a pullback before month end,” the AA says.

“Diesel and illuminating paraffin are the worst hit, with the current data showing an increase of 52c/l for these fuel types. But petrol hasn’t escaped unscathed, with increases of up to 34c/l on the cards,” says the AA.

The AA says that the increases come despite significant global refining overcapacity, and a slight increase in the worldwide oil supply alongside falling demand. The association also notes the International Energy Agency’s comments regarding optimism that an effective vaccine for Covid-19 may accelerate the economic recovery from the pandemic.

All information sourced from articles posted by: Business Insider, BusinessTech, 702, M&G, and Times Live.

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