News in South Africa 18th May:
1. Sanral cancels R17.47bil in tenders:
The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has cancelled adjudicated tenders to the value of R17.47 billion in the past week, throwing the sustainability and viability of South Africa’s civil engineering industry into doubt.
The tender for the Eastern Cape’s new Mtentu River Bridge, valued at around R3.4 billion and listed as one of the country’s presidential priority projects intended to stimulate the economy post the Covid-19 pandemic, is among the tenders to have been cancelled.
Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona confirmed on Tuesday that other cancelled tenders are:
- The EB Cloete Interchange Improvements (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal) tender valued at R4.3 billion;
- The N3 Ashburton Interchange (Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal) tender valued at R1.8 billion; and
- The R56 Matatiele (Eastern Cape) rehabilitation tender valued at just over R1 billion.
Mona added that the Open Road Tolling tender (TCH Operator) valued at over R6.8 billion had lapsed.
“The tenders were cancelled due to a material irregularity in the tender process where a resolution made by the board in January 2020 was not implemented in the evaluation of the said tenders,” he said.
‘Crisis’ for construction and the economy
SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) CEO Webster Mfebe stated on Tuesday these tender cancellations are a crisis for the construction industry and the recovery of the South African economy.
He said these tenders are instrumental to the survival of the construction industry and become a lost opportunity cost.
“The ripple effect is far-reaching and adverse overall to all the parties that are affected by the cancellation of projects.”
Concor CEO Lucas Teki said on Tuesday: “We were totally heartbroken when we received this letter of cancellation after so much investment on our side to submit the bid.”
“The president communicated to the nation that these are priority projects that will be utilised as a mechanism to stimulate our economy. What has happened is contrary to that.”
He said Concor avoided specific opportunities because it knew these resources would be deployed on the Mtentu River Bridge project.
“Now we have lost out on those opportunities because we did not respond to them because we were of the view that our capacity would be taken up but now that has not happened,” he said.
Irregularities are Sanral’s alone, says contractor
Another contractor, who did not want to be named, stressed that the only irregularities were internal Sanral irregularities.
Sanral should therefore have found a commercial and legal cure, possibly with the assistance of the Auditor-General and National Treasury, so it “did not throw out the baby with the bathwater”.
Questions were also raised about how some tenders submitted to Sanral’s board for approval complied with the board resolution and were awarded while others did not.
“What is happening is almost an intentional concerted effort to destroy and kill what remains of the sector,” he said.
2. Vaccination rate shocking:
If it weren’t for bad roads, bad weather, and a lack of simple tools, more South Africans would be vaccinated, those with regional responsibility for the rollout of Covid-19 shots say.
The OR Tambo region of the Eastern Cape is complaining about a lack of megaphones and transport, a weekly department of health report on the vaccine rollout shows.
Bad weather was cited in that district, as well as in parts of North West and the Western Cape, where the Garden Route area said it couldn’t keep warm when they come to promotional events designed to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
The Northern Cape needs materials that explain booster shots in Afrikaans. In both KwaZulu-Natal and the North West, the inability to get a vaccine outside of working hours appears to be holding back rollout.
The combination of such challenges – and what government experts describe as widespread apathy – is clear in national statistics. On Tuesday, South Africa recorded just over 22,000 new vaccine booster doses delivered on the day, and just about 20,000 people received their first doses on the day, as both winter and a fifth wave of infections draw nearer.
That slow rate of vaccination means not much over 45% of the adult population is considered fully vaccinated, as opposed to the 67% target for herd immunity that President Cyril Ramaphosa set well over a year ago.
Various regions did agree on one thing that is driving vaccination: soccer.
Tshwane linked the Mamelodi Sundowns team with vaccination, and eThekwini said vaccine clinics at football matches were working. Others are trying to involve sports teams or organisations, and have suggested making vaccination mandatory for those wishing to take part in games at local-club level.
That, they think, may hit home for young men, among whom more than two-thirds remain resolutely unvaccinated.
3. Regulation changes opposed:
The Department of Health is opposing a challenge to the new regulations for managing COVID-19.
AfriForum, together with public participation platform DearSA, has approached the Pretoria High Court with an application to have the regulations declared unconstitutional and invalid.
But the department’s spokesperson has confirmed it will be fighting the case.
In terms of the notice of motion, which was filed last week, the department had until Tuesday to file a notice of intention to oppose.
And late Tuesday afternoon, departmental spokesperson Foster Mohale told Eyewitness news this had now been done.
AfriForum and DearSA’s argued that it doesn’t make sense to implement these regulations at a time when other countries are dropping mask mandates and other protocols they introduced during the pandemic.
They also said they’re suspicious of the process that was followed to push the regulations through.
4. SARS wants more tax:
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) wants to increase tax collection in South Africa, with plans, strategies and the biggest risks to do so over the next few years contained in its annual performance plan for 2022/23.
SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter stated that the continuous spread of Covid-19, along with its associated restrictions and the continual load shedding, remains a major pull-back to economic growth and continues to have adverse effects on revenue collection.
The report notes that year-on-year tax revenue collection targets have become increasingly hard to reach.
According to the National Treasury and SARS joint publication on 2021 Tax Statistics, revenue collection for the 2020/21 fiscal year amounted to R1 249.7 billion, an annual decline of R106.1 billion – roughly 7.8%.
SARS said it wishes to demonstrate a full understanding of the economy including causal factors for this decline, while curbing exemptions, thereby reducing the tax system’s complexity and boosting revenue by broadening the tax base.
“There are many areas where SARS continues to fall short with respect to improving taxpayer and trader experience, and we are committed to resolving systematic issues that negatively affect taxpayers and traders across all SARS interactions,” said Kieswetter.
The revenue service’s Tax Statistics 2021 shows the distribution of taxpayers, taxable income and tax assessed by province and municipality.
Assessed individual taxpayers by province, 2019 – 2020
Tax data shows that the most assessed taxpayers were based in Gauteng in the 2021 tax year, and the highest average taxable income at R408,537, followed by Western Cape (R341 943), Limpopo (R316,991), Northern Cape (308,501), KwaZulu-Natal (R306,323) and Mpumalanga at R302,354.
5. OR Tambo operating again:
A committee overseeing the provision of jet fuel at South Africa’s busiest airport has said there is no need to divert or cancel flights due to low fuel stocks.
The supply of jet fuel has been constrained at OR Tambo International Airport since late March, forcing some international airlines to divert flights to Durban and Windhoek to refuel on their return journeys. Two flights were also cancelled due to an inability secure fuel in time.
The fuel crunch was caused by serious floods in KwaZulu-Natal, which damaged railways and fuel infrastructure.
On Tuesday, the Jet Fuel Forum Committee – a body made of the Department of Energy, the Airports Company South Africa, the International Air Transport Association, and others – announced that the supply of jet fuel remains “sufficient for all airlines operating at OR Tambo”.
“The JFF is of the view that there is no need for airlines to tanker fuel or cancel scheduled flights,” it said.
The forum said that, as of 16 May, OR Tambo had 5.8 days’ worth of jet fuel in stock.
The airport has also been able to secure an additional 20 million litres of fuel, which is set to arrive by 27 May. Other smaller deliveries are also expected from Transnet Freight Rail.