News in South Africa 18th February:
1. Politicians can’t get vaccines first:
The health department’s hopes of having dozens of politicians receive early Covid-19 vaccinations to shore up public confidence in the jab have been dealt a blow after the medicines regulator turned down its request to include them in the first phase of the rollout aimed at health-care workers.
However, the regulator has shot this plan down, saying the first phase of the rollout is focused on healthcare workers.
The vaccines currently being rollout are limited, and part of a tightly-controlled research programme.
2. Tropical storm Guambe could become cyclone:
A tropical storm likely to intensify into a cyclone is approaching Mozambique, South Africa’s Weather Services (SAWS) said on Wednesday, battering an area hit by cyclone Eloise less than a month back.
Tropical storm Guambe is strengthening in the southern half of the Mozambique Channel with a high likelihood of torrential rain, strong winds and flooding along southern Mozambique’s coast and adjacent interior regions, especially from Beira through Vilanculos and southward to Inhambane, SAWS said in a statement.
This will be the third storm to hit Mozambique’s coast in as many months as climate change warms up sea water, making the low-lying areas in the country, whose ports are a gateway to land-locked African countries, particularly vulnerable.
3. Closing in on UIF TERS fraudsters:
Authorities are rapidly closing in on thousands of South Africans (citizens and officials) who unlawfully enriched themselves through the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters).
On August 22 last year Minister of Labour and Employment Thulas Nxesi referred the findings of the office of the Auditor-General regarding fraud and wasteful expenditure associated with Ters payments to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) – colloquially known as the Cobras – for consequence management and legal action.
Regarding the Ters awareness campaign, the Cobras found that R6.1 million was irregularly spent on radio advertisements. Disciplinary hearings are currently proceeding against seven officials.
Furthermore, lifestyle audits of several UIF officials have started and rapid progress is being made.
Thus far, 13 447 004 employees working for 1 156 565 companies or employers have benefitted from Ters, to the tune of R57 384 148 010.44.
The Cobras identified a wide variety of ways in which Ters payments have been fraudulently claimed.
- UIF officials making payments to their colleagues or themselves;
- Payments made to the deceased, prisoners, foreigners and people with invalid ID numbers;
- Double-dipping (beneficiaries claiming Ters payments while also receiving social grants);
- Payments of amounts that are too high or too low; and
- Instances where the payment date precedes the claim date.
4. Massmart to sell 8 stores:
South Africa’s Competition Tribunal approved on Wednesday retailer Massmart’s deal to sell eight stores to unlisted Johannesburg-based Devland Cash and Carry, saving 640 jobs.
The approval moves Massmart, majority-owned by U.S. retail giant Walmart Inc, a step closer to completing its turnaround plan, which aims to improve efficiencies, save costs and address underperforming stores.
Last year in January Massmart announced its intention to potentially close 11 underperforming “masscash” stores – its cash and carry format – but later identified a potential buyer for eight of the 11 stores.
The ‘masscash’ division comprises Jumbo cash and carry wholesaler, Cambridge Food and Rhino cash and carry stores.
The Competition Tribunal, which makes the final ruling on mergers and deals, approved the deal on condition that no employees will be laid off as a result of the sale for a period of nine months following the transaction’s implementation date.
The potential sale of the remaining three stores is still being contemplated, Massmart said in response to questions.
5. Pollution of Vaal could cause civil claims:
An inquiry into the Vaal sewage crisis has warned that the consequences of the pollution could result in a string of legitimate civil claims against the Department of Water and Sanitation for damages.
According to a report by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), further litigation could escalate all the way to the Constitutional Court.
The commission released its findings on Wednesday after launching the investigation back in 2018.
The inquiry into the Vaal sewage spill has found that the waste pollution was undoubtedly a crisis and an obvious liability to the state.
Human Rights commissioner Jonas Sibanyoni said that the poor service delivery and constitutional violations could result in a massive civil case for the state.
“In respect of Water and Sanitation Department, the pollution of the Vaal area will result in further litigation that could escalate all the way to the Constitutional Court.”