News in South Africa 19th April:

1. Slow start to vaccine program:

South Africa’s phase 2 vaccination programme is off to a slow start, with only 519,139 people in total receiving their shots. This includes people 60 years and older who’ve been prioritised in the second phase of the rollout, which kicked off on Monday.

Slow start to vaccine program
Image taken by: Anna Tarazevich

Health officials on Tuesday said just over 94,000 COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the Western Cape.

As part of Phase 1b and Phase 2 kicking off with the Pfizer two-dose jab, a combined 939 people consisting of healthcare workers and people over 60 years of age have been vaccinated.

Government said that the capacity to vaccinate more people would be bolstered as more sites would come online next week.

Researchers have shown that government needs to vaccinate over 100,000 people a day to meet its targets.

2. Namibia bans poultry:

Namibia has instituted a total ban on the import of live and raw poultry from South Africa, as the industry battles to contain the spread of a highly contagious avian flu that first broke out at a Johannesburg layer farm in earlier in April.

Namibia first announced a partial ban of 21 days on poultry from South Africa on 15 April, restricting imports from one trading compartment.

On Monday, its ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform announced an immediate suspension of import and in-transit movement of live poultry and their raw products from South Africa.

“All previously issued import and in transit permits to import poultry and their products originating from South Africa are hereby canceled and recalled with immediate effect. This measure will remain effective until further notice,” the ministry said in a statement.

Namibia is one of several countries that now have trade restrictions placed on South Africa’s poultry. Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Hong Kong are also rejecting some or all poultry products from the country.

The trade bans threaten South Africa’s chicken export revenues, which in 2019 came generated R1.247 billion. South Africa exported 53,641 tonnes of poultry products during the same period. It exports mainly to the SADC region and other neighbouring countries, with broilers accounting for 93.6 % of the industry’s total poultry exports.

3. Government’s cash offer confusing:

The DA has called on finance minister Tito Mboweni and public service minister Senzo Mchunu to explain the rationale behind a government decision to offer public servants a recurring cash gratuity of R978 after months of deadlocked wage negotiations.

The party also wants them to explain how the cash bonuses will be paid, given an already overstretched budget.

The decision will cost the state more than R15bn in additional expenditure, according to DA shadow finance minister Geordin Hill-Lewis.

This was a step backwards and capitulation to threats by the sector union, he charged.

His sentiments follow the state tabling a revised offer of a 1.5% one-off salary adjustment and the cash gratuity of R978 for 12 months at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) on Sunday evening.

“What is this cash bonus for? While millions of South Africans have lost their jobs, and families are going through very difficult times financially, a monthly bonus for every public servant is simply not warranted at this time. Especially as the delivery of essential public services is at a low point,” said Hill-Lewis.

Labour unions have demanded a salary increase equal to consumer inflation plus four percentage points. They also demanded a risk allowance of 12% of the basic salary because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

4. New smoking laws:

Representatives from the tobacco and vaping industry held consultations with the government this week on the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Bill, which will introduce new smoking laws for South Africa.

Approved by president Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet in 2018, the bill aims to comprehensively prohibit smoking in public places.

This includes public conveyances and workplaces, enclosed spaces where children are present, private dwellings used for certain commercial activities and such outdoor public spaces.

The bill also aims to further regulate the use, marketing and sales of e-cigarettes or vapes in South Africa, with these products currently operating in something of a legislative vacuum.

The consultations with tobacco and vaping bodies this week form part of the socio-economic impact assessment process which must be conducted before any bill can be passed into law.

Commenting on the bill this week, the South Africa Tobacco Transformation Alliance (SATTA) said it would formally object to the draft legislation which it called a ‘sham’.

Sibisi also argued that it was ‘dangerous and reckless’ to consider imposing the sort of restrictions proposed in the bill at a time when the entire legal tobacco industry is currently in the intensive care unit, with massive losses in income, revenue and jobs.

“The impact has been massive over the past year, and the signs of recovery are slight, if any. Our contribution to GDP declined by R3.7 billion. 35,000 jobs were lost in the industry, and 49,000 across the sector.

5. Transition to green energy:

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe plans to issue requests for proposals to secure over 9 000 MW of additional energy capacity. The minister on Tuesday tabled the budget vote for his department.

Mantashe noted that South Africa and the rest of the world are increasingly under pressure to mitigate against climate change, but the country’s energy capacity is largely dependent on fossil fuels.

“In an alternative universe, one would immediately eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy such as coal and petroleum. However, this is not our reality, our reality is that we have vast reserves of coal and petroleum resources which we continue to exploit,” Mantashe said.

The minister however said that government is committed to a just transition, and has begun investing in clean technologies to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, while ensuring security of energy supply.

In the coming months, additional requests for proposals will be issued for:

  • 2 600 MW for renewable energy, around August 2021.
  • 513 MW for storage, around August 2021.
  • 1 500 MW from coal, around December 2021.
  • 3 000 MW for gas, around December 2021.
  • 1 600 MW for renewable energy, around January 2022.

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

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