News in South Africa 15th May:
1. All online shopping allowed:
As of Thursday South African online stores may sell any product other than booze and cigarettes under Alert Level 4.
According to new regulations published on Thursday afternoon, e-commerce sites are no longer limited to the small range of items that physical stores may sell – though they (and customers receiving packages) must comply with new requirements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The new directions are immediately in effect.
South Africa had been one of the only countries in the world to shut down online e-commerce, apart from the sale of essential goods, during its national Covid-19 lockdown.
Now online shoppers can buy anything again, with only alcoholic drinks and tobacco products still restricted. That will also apply to parts of the country that do not move to Level 3 because of a high rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and will continue to apply should South Africa move back up to the present Level 4 again in future.
At the same time, online stores must now promote local goods.
“In order to limit the social and economic hardship caused by the pandemic on local industries and enable consumer choice to support local producers, retailers must give prominence to those goods which are manufactured in the Republic of South Africa,” the new rules read.
In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “retailers must provide written guidelines for customers on how to safely disinfect their goods before use.”
Recipients are encouraged to follow that advice, and sanitise everything they receive.
Buyers – “and all residents within the immediate vicinity” are now also required to wear face masks when receiving goods from couriers.
The new rules met with immediate approval from e-tailers.
2. New airline in the works:
The government and the business rescue practitioners of SAA have reached a formal agreement to discuss proposals that include the establishment of a new airline mooted by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
They agreed there should be “optimal saving of jobs” in the business rescue process.
3. MTN’s data revenue up:
Africa’s largest mobile operator MTN says data was one of its main drivers of revenue growth in the first financial quarter, as the country was placed under lockdown to curb the growth of the coronavirus pandemic.
The mobile operator recorded a 26.4 % jump in data revenue in the Q1 which ended March 31. Revenue from voice was down 6.3%, while fintech grew 26%.
“The impact of the pandemic on our quarter one performance was not significant as lockdown restrictions for our consolidated subsidiaries were only implemented from the last week of March 2020,” said CEO Rob Shuter.
Digital revenue increased by 15.6%. Demand for broadband has increased sharply since the country was put under lockdown, with companies making employees work from home in a bid to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
4. Sasol seeking clean energy:
Sasol, one of the country’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, has invited bids from independent power producers for the supply of renewable energy to its local operations in a move to reduce emissions.
The petrochemicals company, which operates mega facilities in Sasolburg and Secunda, where it converts coal into fuel and chemicals, said it had its sights on wind and solar energy producers with a generation capacity of at least 20 MW.
“We intend procuring, in total, approximately 600 MW of renewable electricity capacity, with the aim of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 1.6 million tons per annum,” said Chief Sustainability Officer, Hermann Wenhold.
He added that the process would enable Sasol to deliver on its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10% by 2030. He was referring a commitment by the company in a Climate Change Report released in 2019, where Sasol said it would reduce its absolute greenhouse gas emissions from SA operations by at least 10%, coming off a 2017 baseline.
5. US unemployment up:
New US data shows that another 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week – bringing the total to more than 36 million people since the pandemic started. But Wall Street shrugged it off, and strengthened overnight, thanks to a rally in banking stocks.