News in South Africa 18th May:
1. Second phase rollout starts well:
Health minister Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa’s first day of the second phase of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout went relatively well, barring challenges presented by nationwide load shedding, and violent protests in the Free State.
The minister said that ‘a large number’ of vaccinations were administered, but the figures were still being consolidated as the numbers of elderly given the jab at old age homes were still coming in. The health department has given a 24 hour window for the numbers to be properly tallied before releasing the figures.
The national health department has confirmed that 7 707 health workers and 4 288 people of 60 years and older had received SMS messages by 23:00 on Sunday for Covid-19 vaccination appointments on Monday.
Nicholas Crisp said the people who received messages had been selected on the basis of who registered first on the government’s electronic vaccination data system (EVDS). “First in, first vaccinated,” was the general rule, Crisp said.
A dashboard will be launched for the tracking of vaccination numbers in real time.
However, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has pushed back the target to reach herd immunity to the end of the year, now saying that government will only be able to inoculate 40 million people by the first quarter of next year.
Government warned that even after receiving a vaccine, people must continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
2. Construction on the rise:
New life is being breathed into some segments of South Africa’s financially distressed construction industry by robust tender activity driven by the public and mining sectors.
The industry has been brought to its knees in the past few years by a dearth of major tenders, particularly from the public sector.
However, Raubex CEO Rudolf Fourie said last week that tender activity is now at a higher level than in the period leading up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“Tender activity levels are at a level that I have not seen in my 30 years in the industry. It’s also the first time in my career that we [Raubex] have got an order book beyond three years. “But this brings into question whether there is enough capacity to execute all this work. That is our biggest challenge.”
Raubex has been awarded three Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) in KwaZulu-Natal that were gazetted last year by government and grew its secured order book by almost 69% to a record R17.1 billion in the year to end-February 2021 from R10.14 billion in the previous year.
Five of the six major contracts Raubex was awarded in the six months to end-February, with a total value of R7.67 billion, were awarded by the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) after it awarded virtually no tenders for about two years up to 2020.
Fourie said last week there is about R10 billion of Sanral work that is still outstanding and has not been awarded.
3. ANC vs Ace:
“The African National Congress Officials met today, Monday 17th of May 2021 and affirmed the decision to oppose the application lodged by the Secretary-General Comrade Ace Magashule to have, among others, his temporary suspension lifted,” the ANC said in a statement.
Announcing the decision, party spokesperson Pule Mabe said the party had appointed Mazwai Attorneys as instructing attorneys, supported by three senior counsel and one junior counsel: advocate Wim Trengrove SC, advocate Ngwako Maenetje SC, advocate Fana Nalane SC and advocate Buhle Lekokotla.
The party’s move follows Magashule’s urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court last week to declare the ANC’s step-aside rule unconstitutional. Magashule argued that rule 27.5 of the ANC constitution, which authorises the stepping aside of party members facing corruption charges, undermines the principle of innocence until proven guilty.
Magashule is challenging the ANC’s decision to temporarily suspend him on the basis of the step-aside rule and wants his own suspension of the ANC’s and South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, declared valid.
He wants the party’s order for him to apologise to Ramaphosa for attempting to suspend him declared unlawful and unenforceable.
Magashule faces charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering in connection with a R255-million asbestos tender during his tenure as premier of the Free State. Magashule is charged along with Free State Human Settlements head of department Nthimotse Mokhesi, businessman Edwin Sodi and Sodi’s company, Blackhead Consulting.
4. Online retail doubled:
South African e-commerce grew by 66% in 2020, outpacing earlier estimates thanks to coronavirus-induced lockdowns and a decline in brick-and-mortar retail sales. Although the latest burst has doubled the industry’s turnover in just two years, post-pandemic growth rates are expected to be more subdued.
While many sectors of the economy were crippled by varying degrees of lockdown in 2020, online retailers experienced a boom in sales as South Africans avoided shopping malls and stores in favour of home deliveries. Online sales topped R30.2 billion, 50% higher than totals forecast according to a study by World Wide Worx.
“The most astonishing aspect of this total is that it is more than double the R14.1-billion reached in 2018, in just two years,” said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstruck. In 2018, e-when brought in that R14.1 billion, it accounted for just 1.4% of all retail in South Africa.
The losses incurred by traditional retailers, which recorded consecutive lows for nine months in 2020, correlate with gains made by South African online retailers, which doubled their combined market share to 2.8%. South Africa’s largest online retailer, Takealot, grew its revenue by 41% to more than R3.3 billion.
And while the e-commerce industry is still expected to continue its upward trajectory, tipping R42 billion in sales in 2021 and increasing its total retail market share to around 4%, the coronavirus-induced boom is unlikely to be repeated.
5. Loadshedding semi suspended:
Eskom has paused load shedding on Tuesday, after some of its units returned to power.
However, it said that load shedding will continue again on Tuesday evening from 17h00 to 22h00, as the grid remains under severe pressure due to other breakdowns and a lack of capacity to deal with the evening peak.
Load shedding returned this week after Eskom lost 10 generating units at seven power stations. While some capacity is back, Eskom warned that the outlook for the rest of the week remain unpredictable – though things are expected to improve.