News in South Africa 18th October:

1. Over 20mil vaccinated:

On Friday, South Africa breached 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered, with another 154,000 people added to the tally of those fully vaccinated.

Over 20mil vaccinated
Image taken by: FRANK MERIÑO

That makes for some 35% of the adult population at least partially vaccinated.

Ignore younger people, both less at risk of severe Covid-19 and seemingly less worried about being vaccinated, and the numbers shoot up fast. In the 60+ age group, more than 60% of people have been vaccinated. Among those between 50 and 60 years old, more than 50% have been vaccinated. Between the ages of 35 and 49, the proportion is more than 40% – for women. Among men of that age, the proportion drops to a little over 35%. But young adults, those up to 34, drag the average down, with only 23% of women and less than 17% of men in that bracket having been vaccinated.

South Africa also has 10.7 million people considered fully vaccinated – under the current regime, where a single dose of J&J counts.

At a little under 27% of the adult population fully vaccinated, South Africa is tracking well behind a global average of around 37%.

Around 30 countries have reached or exceeded the herd immunity target South Africa has set for itself, of being two-thirds fully vaccinated, before the end of the year. That includes the rich nations of Europe, and small island states such as the Maldives. But also in that group is countries South Africa may consider closer to being comparable, such as Chile, Uruguay, and Malaysia.

2. Eskom taking Nersa to court:

Eskom has filed an urgent application in the Gauteng High Court to prevent a situation where it will be unable to generate any revenue from April 1 next year due to a decision made by energy regulator Nersa that 50% of its voting board members opposed.

It was only the casting vote of the acting chair, Advocate Fungai Sibanda, that tipped the scale towards the rejection of Eskom’s latest tariff application “in favour of a fanciful tariff determination process that is simply incapable of lawful completion in time for the 15 March 2022 deadline”, says Eskom CFO Calib Cassim in an affidavit filed in support of the application.

Cassim explains that this may leave the power company without any lawful way to charge tariffs and generate revenue, which will require government to cough up as much as R300 billion to keep Eskom going for the next financial year.

Several earlier court orders and Nersa decisions provide for a total of about R50 billion due to Eskom because of flawed Nersa decisions.

This must be added to its allowable revenue and a move away from the concept of allowable revenue will make these orders incapable of being implemented and deprive Eskom of these amounts.Cassim says “it is no exaggeration to say that, for the reasons given above, there is a risk of catastrophic harm to Eskom and South Africa” unless the urgent order to set aside Nersa’s rejection and compel it to process the rejected application in terms of the current methodology is granted.

This would be in line with the alternative proposal supported by half of the voting Nersa board.

3. Elections may leave government divided:

South Africa is likely to emerge from the local government elections with more hung councils than in 2016, which will trigger horse-trading and bartering for positions.

Stable coalitions can lead to more inclusive government and more accountability, with parties watching each other for malfeasance or missteps.

But they can also be fragile and unstable, where a single small party can hold bigger ones to ransom for powerful positions, or political spats can lead to their collapse, with consequences for communities as service delivery suffers.

When the election results start flooding in, and it becomes clear there are going to be metros or municipalities where no one party has the 50% plus one majority to form a government, the bartering and back-room talks get under way in earnest, often on the back of loose deals already sealed in the run-up to polling day.

Coalition governments are a fact of life in South Africa, thanks to its proportional system of representation, while the impact of low voter turnout on the once-mighty African National Congress (ANC) makes hung councils more, not less, inevitable in municipalities across the country.

But coalition governments have tended to be unstable and fragile, with shifting allegiances and walkouts leading to their sometimes repeated collapse, with dire implications for service delivery.

That’s probably the main reason that voters generally don’t like them.

Independent elections analyst Dawie Scholtz said that it was not set in stone, but the 1 November local government elections were likely to yield coalition governments in much the same metros as in 2016.

“Certainly Nelson Mandela Bay is quite likely, Tshwane is quite likely – Johannesburg is less likely but very possible – Ekurhuleni is less likely but very possible, and then an outside possibility is eThekwini. Cape Town would be a shocker; I think it’s unlikely.”

Scholtz says there are between 20 and 50 smaller municipalities scattered across the country that either already have coalition governments or where party majorities were very marginal.

4. More fuel price increases:

Mid-month data from the Central Energy Fund (CEF) shows that fuel prices could see significant increases in November on the back of the global energy crisis and a weaker rand.

The data made available by the CEF to 14 October shows an under-recovery in both petrol and diesel prices, pointing to a possible increase of between 95 and 98 cents per litre for petrol and over R1.40 per litre for diesel.

The mid-month changes are as follows:

  • Petrol 95: increase of 98 cents per litre;
  • Petrol 93: increase of 96 cents per litre;
  • Diesel 0.05%: increase of R1.41 per litre;
  • Diesel 0.005%: increase of R1.42 cents per litre;
  • Illuminating Paraffin: increase R1.42 per litre.

The Central Energy Fund (CEF) has stressed that the daily snapshots are not predictive and do not cover other potential changes like slate levy adjustments or retail margin changes, which the department determines.

The Department of Energy makes adjustments based on a review of the whole period. Furthermore, the outlook can change significantly before month-end.

Prices are affected by two main components – the rand/dollar exchange rate and charges to international petroleum product costs, primarily driven by oil prices.

5. New index for failing municipalities:

No water. Intermittent electricity supply. Potholes. Sewerage in the streets.

This is the grim reality in many of South Africa’s municipalities, and is the direct result of municipal mismanagement. And the prospects for many local governments look bleak.

While South Africans are heading to the ballot box for municipal elections on 1 November, News24’s Out of Order index, calculated from a set of data painstakingly collated over the last two months by a News24 team, suggests that the crisis in the frontline of service delivery is likely to deepen.

The index, the first data journalism project of its sort in South Africa, suggests 43 municipalities, over and above the 87 already red-flagged by government, are in the danger zone of collapse.

The 43 are municipalities that have not already been named in other officially published lists from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) or the Auditor-General as being delinquent or under administration.

They include municipalities across five provinces. They are dominated by KwaZulu-Natal (22), followed by the Eastern Cape (9), Limpopo (7), Northern Cape (3) and two in North West.

Among the municipalities on this list are Mbashe, Great Kei and Intsika Yethu in the Eastern Cape; Impendle, Umvoti and Nongomo in KwaZulu-Natal; Elias Motsoaledi (Greater Groblersdal) in Limpopo; Kagisano-Molopo in North West, and Dikgatlong in Northern Cape.

Significantly, a report submitted by Cogta to the parliamentary local government portfolio committee in August 2021 indicated that a further 111 local municipalities were classified as being at medium risk for deteriorating further. Only 16 were rated as stable. The Out of Order index suggests many of those medium risk municipalities may be further down the road than already imagined. 

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Business Insider, Moneyweb, EWN, News24.

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