News in South Africa 17th June:
1. New Lockdown regulations:
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa’s lockdown regulations will be tightened as the country grapples with a third Covid-19 wave.
In a national address on Tuesday evening (15 June), the president said that the country will move to a level 3 lockdown from midnight on the Tuesday to stop health facilities from being overwhelmed.
He said that the priority now is to ensure that there are enough beds and healthcare workers to give the best possible care to those who need it.
The new restrictions include:
- The hours of curfew are from 22h00 – 04h00
- Non-essential establishments such as bars and fitness centres must close at 21h00
- All gatherings will be limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate appropriate social distancing, 50% of the floor space may be used.
- Attendance at funerals and cremation may not exceed 50 people.
- Night vigils and after-funeral gatherings remain prohibited.
- The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption is permitted between 10h00 – 18h00 from Monday to Thursday.
- On-site alcohol consumption may continue until 21h00, subject to liquor licenses.
- Alcohol in public is strictly prohibited.
President Ramaphosa said that he understood that South Africans were frustrated about having their freedom restricted, but said that restrictions are necessary for combating the Covid-19 virus.
He added that the country has a ‘mountain to climb’ as it faces a third wave of infections – with daily infections doubling in the last two weeks.
Tthere have been 13,246 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 1,774,312. Deaths have reached 58,223, while recoveries have climbed to 1,620,317, leaving the country with a balance of 95,772 active cases.
The total number of vaccines administered is only 1,965,812.
2. New regulations too late for 3rd wave:
The Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on COVID-19 said the increase in cases in Gauteng is a serious concern.
The active caseload in the nation’s economic hub has been steadily rising over two weeks.
On Tuesday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the nation’s COVID-19 alert level, moving the curfew earlier and restricting alcohol sales and public gatherings.
“This could’ve been done earlier, but it’s just that it was not and this is where we are right now. It is always easy to look back and say ‘we could’ve done this’, but what’s important is, even now is still a good opportunity, especially because the other provinces are not yet there [in a third wave]. So, we can still save the other provinces from a rampaging third wave,” said Ministerial Advisory Committee chairperson Professor Koleka Mlisana.
3. Mandatory workplace vaccinations:
South African companies looking to implement a mandatory vaccination policy in the workplace must first consider a range of alternatives for employees may who refuse the jab.
South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccination program aims to inoculate 67% of the population – some 40 million South Africans – by early 2022. This targeted herd immunity is intended to return the country to some semblance of normality and revive the economy to its pre-pandemic levels.
This includes the return of employees to their places of work. Throughout the pandemic, companies – especially those with workforces in congregated settings like offices – have been reluctant to reopen even if legally allowed by the loosening of lockdown regulations.
While many office-based workforces have transitioned to working from home over the past year, companies are actively looking at ways to regroup without risking Covid-19 outbreaks in the workplace.
Employers have already been tasked with conducting risk assessments for the safe return of employees by the department of employment and labour. These plans seek to reduce the chance of outbreaks by implementing daily screening and cleaning measures, rotating workers, limiting the number of employees allowed in the building, and providing personal protective equipment.
The most effective way to prevent deadly Covid-19 outbreaks – and return to pre-pandemic levels of productivity – is through vaccination. Companies toying with the idea of forcing vaccines on to their employees will, however, need to be careful according to the department of employment and labour and legal experts.
A mandatory vaccination policy can only be included in a company’s risk assessment plan following consultation with labour unions and safety committees.
Employees identified as being at a higher risk of Covid-19 infection, disease or death need to be notified of:
- Their obligation to be vaccinated as and when the vaccine becomes available.
- The right to refuse to be vaccinated on constitutional or medical grounds.
- The opportunity to consult a health and safety representative or trade union official.
An employee who refuses to be vaccinated on constitutional or medical grounds can be counselled by the employer and referred for further medical evaluation should there be concerns around a contraindication for vaccination.
4. SAA selling to private group:
The pending sale of a 51% shareholding in South African Airways (SAA) to the Takatso Consortium, comprising Harith Management Partners (HMP) and Global Aviation, has set off a storm of controversy and conspiracy theories.
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has however made a brave decision in launching a public-private partnership that could be the blueprint of such partnerships in the future.
The honourable ‘no-nonsense’ Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has drawn a line in the sand regarding debt. The government will pick up the historical liabilities, definitively stopping the fiscal bleed.
The consortium has raised R3 billion to get SAA into the skies and operating again.
Perhaps we should look back some 24 years ago, when SA Breweries sold its wholly-owned subsidiary OK Bazaars to Shoprite for R1 and walked away.
In retaining 49% in SAA, the government will at least share in the upside, with no downside.
If the consortium is successful, the government can look forward to dividends and taxes on revenue. It will in any event receive employment taxes and value-added tax.
The due diligences on the consortium, and on SAA by the consortium, still have to be carried out. It is possible that some value will be put on SAA’s intangible assets, such as the Star Alliance and its brand. Parallel to this process, the route, flight and staffing plan will be finalised. The final step will be the signing of the purchase and sale agreement.
5. EFF refuses to obey lockdowns:
EFF leader Julius Malema says there’s still a lot to be done for the youth in South Africa to be “happy”. Malema said the youth was drowning in misery faced by many challenges that the government was failing to tackle.
Malema was speaking outside Uitsig High School in Centurion, Tshwane, where a pupil was allegedly assaulted for wearing EFF regalia for the school’s Career Day on 4 June. It later emerged, after enquiries made by news agencies to the Gauteng Department of Education, that the student was on a seven-day suspension and had violated the school’s code of conduct by going to school.
Despite this coming to light, EFF members showed up in their numbers at the school on Wednesday to commemorate the Soweto youth uprising on 16 June 1976.
The party slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa for not being clear on the vaccination rollout program. He said it was concerning that the government still hadn’t prioritised essential workers to be vaccinated.
“Police are not vaccinated. There’s no plan to vaccinate teachers who deal with millions of children every day. Frontline workers… those people are in danger. The nurses, the doctors and all those who work in hospitals those who were told they are a priority till today they are still struggling to vaccinate,” he said.
Malema said the party would not listen to what Ramaphosa had to say, nor adhere to the lockdown restrictions that were imposed under lockdown Level 3.