News in South Africa 19th January:

1. Request for ease of restrictions:

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has written to president Cyril Ramaphosa, formally requesting that the government ease lockdown restrictions around gatherings.

Request for ease of restrictions
Image taken by: cottonbro

Hill-Lewis said that this includes two specific requests which are necessary for helping restart the economy:

  • That the 50% capacity rule for outdoor public facilities, like public swimming pools, be lifted entirely.
  • That spectators be allowed to return to watch major sporting events – such as the ongoing India-South Africa cricket tour.

Under current level 1 regulations, the number of people permitted at an indoor gathering is 1,000, while the number of people permitted at outdoor events is 2,000.

In instances where a venue cannot accommodate this many people, no more than 50% of the venue capacity may be used with people spaced at least 1.5 metres apart from one another.

“As the summer peak season gets into full gear, and the latest Omicron variant of Covid-19 proves to have less of a negative impact than the previous Delta variant, the resumption of public entertainment and sporting events should be a priority for aiding economic recovery,” Hill-Lewis said.

In addition to the strong demand for public swimming pools, Hill-Lewis said the City of Cape Town has shown that it can safely manage large events with clear adherence to health safety protocols to protect residents and spectators, he said.

“Since October last year, we have hosted the Cycle Tour, the ABSA Cape Epic, Miss SA, the Cape Town Marathon and the FNB One Run among others. All of these are high-profile and large events hosted successfully during a pandemic. In all of these cases, we can provide data to show that the number of infections from the respective event has been very low.”

This experience shows that we can now remove capacity restrictions at sporting events too, he said.

2. Eskom deteriorating drastically:

Eskom’s plants are deteriorating faster than anticipated, and so the embattled power utility will turn to burning more diesel to keep the lights on this year, its CFO says.

This was not previously factored into the group’s operations for this year and could lead to a further 5% tariff increase being passed on to customers – over and above the 20.5% increase it has already requested from the energy regulator.

The extra burning of fossil fuels may also present other problems for Eskom, which is already the highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country.

3. Visa backlog hampers tourism:

International restrictions imposed on South African travellers are slowly lifting – but a serious visa backlog still hampers overseas journeys.

South Africa, thanks to expertise in identifying new coronavirus variants, has been battered by travel restrictions throughout the pandemic.

Omicron-induced travel bans, criticised as being unscientific, discriminatory, and ineffective at curbing the new variant’s spread, are now being reversed. North America, parts of Europe, and Australia have reopened to travellers from South Africa.

But getting to these open countries isn’t an easy or quick task for South African passport holders. Months of ongoing travel bans, coupled with reduced staffing capacity at processing centres and embassies has led to a backlog of visa applications.

Almost all countries in Europe require South Africans to get a visa. The same is true for Canada, and the United States. Entry to Australia, which only recently reopened to South Africans after banning foreign travellers since the start of the pandemic, is only open to those holding a specific subclass of visa.

These respective embassies have been inundated with visa applications. Not all of these embassies are operating at full capacity, with reduced on-site staff in line with Covid-19 safety measures, and applications are piling up. This is also being experienced at visa processing centres in the private sector.

“As lockdowns and restrictions across South Africa slowly lift and international borders start to reopen, VFS Global is resuming services in a phased manner for its client governments,” VFS Global, the world’s largest visa outsourcing firm stated.

4. Matric pass rate at 98.4%:

Private school pupils who wrote last year’s matric exams through the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) have passed with flying colours, after achieving a pass rate of 98.39%.

This is slightly higher than the 98.06% achieved in 2020, and an impressive 89.2% of candidates achieved entry to degree study compared with 88.41% in 2020.

A total of 12,857 full-time and 968 part-time candidates from 238 examination centres in 267 venues across Southern Africa wrote the IEB National Senior Certificate exams.

Pupils who wrote the exams through the other private assessment body, the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (Sacai), recorded a 76% overall pass rate which was up by two percentage points from 2020.

At least 90% of the 3,994 candidates writing through Sacai were homeschoolers, while 10% were from private schools.

A total of 1,114 pupils writing through Sacai achieved entry into degree study while 672 achieved diploma passes and 276 higher certificate passes.

Candidates achieved 990 distinctions in total in 2021 — a 195.5% improvement from 2020.

The matric results for pupils attending government schools will be released on Friday.

Senior research associate at the University of Johannesburg Mary Metcalfe says the issue of matric results being made public has been debated for a number of years.

On Tuesday the High Court in Pretoria granted AfriForum and others an urgent interdict compelling the Department of Basic Education to release the 2021 matric results on media platforms.

The department of basic education has announced that it would publish the results on public platforms.

5. Licence card insurance concerns:

Many motorists are concerned about the insurance implications of being involved in an accident or insured incident while driving without a valid driving licence card because of the breakdown since November 7 2021 of the machine that produces the card.

The Department of Transport (DoT) confirmed there was a backlog of 383 000 driving licence cards as at December 1 2021 because of a breakdown of the card-producing machine.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said last week the broken machine is being fixed in Germany and should be back in South Africa by March.

SA Insurance Association (SAIA) insurance risks manager Zakes Sondiyazi said on Tuesday the association and its motor members have fortunately experienced such a situation before and all motor related claims during these periods “were handled quite well”.

“Although each insurer would treat each claim in accordance [with] their rules and procedures, generally and in principle, motor members are expected to look at the full merits of the claim holistically before making a decision and not reject claims solely because a driver’s licence has expired,” he said.

Sondiyazi added that insurers, for example, need to look at the following:

  • Is the claim because of an insured event, such as an accident, fire or water damage, and so on?
  • Is the damaged vehicle insured?
  • Who is the regular driver?
  • Use of vehicle (private or business)?
  • Any other matter that is of a material nature and could have prejudiced the insurer.

Sondiyazi added that the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance made a ruling on this issue in 2007 and mentioned: “To determine an equitable outcome, the insurer would need to demonstrate prejudice because of the failure to be in possession of a valid licence, therefore materiality is a critical factor for consideration.”


All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Fin24, Business Insider, TimesLive, 702, and Moneyweb.

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