News in South Africa 20th January:

1. Funding for vaccines ‘won’t be a problem’:

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that finding funds for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout ‘won’t be a problem’.

Funding for vaccines 'won't be a problem'
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The president did not specify why it wouldn’t be a problem or where the money would come from, given South Africa’s dire financial state.

Treasury has already spoken of tax hikes or further lending as possible funding sources, but as with the rollout plan itself, holes of information remain unfilled.

“The vaccine is going to be a major boost in our efforts to defeat COVID-19,” Ramaphosa said.

“Some people have raised issues about the financing thereof, and finance is not going to be a problem because we will be able to pay for these vaccines.”

The health department also says it will speed up vaccine approval.

Now, the Black Business Council is calling for triple-BEEE compliant companies to be prioritised when considering rollout tenders.

2. David Mabuza to lead vaccine roll-out:

News24 reports that Pfizer tried, unsuccessfully, for months to speak to SA’s department of health about securing some of its vaccines. The department did not respond.

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Deputy President David Mabuza will lead the country’s vaccine roll-out programme.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has dashed the hopes of businesspeople who want a piece of the pie during the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

He said there won’t be many opportunities for businesses when the vaccine roll-out comes around.

The president was responding to calls by black business to be players and participants in the roll-out of the vaccine, which is expected to be implemented in February.

He said:

“I agree completely that black business should participate effectively in the vaccine roll-out. There are going to be opportunities, but there are not going to be a plethora of opportunities as I see it – because the channel is government which purchases and, thereafter, the distribution is going to be the area where we are going to find opportunity.”

Ramaphosa said the government will begin its biggest vaccine roll-out programme in the country’s history, which will be headed by an inter-ministerial committee (IMC), chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza.

“It is going to make us, in government, work in a joined-up manner, where we are going to cooperate much more effectively. The strategy has already been developed. What the IMC will be dealing with is the mechanics of ensuring that the whole process of distribution, vaccination process is well done.”

3. Tourism industry wants Ters re-instated:

Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) boss Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa reiterated the organisation’s calls for the UIF’s Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) to be reinstated on Tuesday, saying the industry is on its knees and many more thousands of jobs are on the line.

The government needs to urgently reinstate UIF Ters benefits for hard-hit workers and businesses in the tourism, hospitality and liquor industries, or we need the extended lockdown alert Level 3 restrictions to be reversed,” he stated.

Similar calls have been made by other tourism bodies such as the South African Tourism Services Association, the Federated Hospitality Association, and the Restaurant Association of SA.

Some unions and the Western Cape provincial government are also pushing for Ters to be reintroduced, particularly for the tourism and hospitality sector. This follows the extension of Level 3 restrictions until February 15 amid a second wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.

Bans on the sale of alcohol and the public visiting of beaches, rivers and dams, together with the 9pm curfew and restrictions on events, have dealt a new blow to the sector’s recovery.

4. Medical aids racial allegations:

The Section 59 panel that was commissioned to investigate claims of discrimination against black, coloured and Indian healthcare professionals by medical aid schemes said that the allegations were true.

It has released a scathing report on how black, coloured and Indian practitioners were racially singled out as likely to commit fraud.

The panel, chaired by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, released its findings after the High court in Pretoria dismissed an application by government medical scheme, GEMS, to block it.

Advocate Ngcukaitobi said that there was no evidence that algorithms alone targeted black professionals but there was discrimination.

“Between 2012 and 2019, which is the period of the investigation, black practitioners and by black, I mean African, Indian and coloured black practitioners, were more likely to be found to have committed fraud, waste and abuse than non-black, in other words, white counterparts.”

The report said that the schemes were violating constitutional rights.

5. Heineken and Foschini trade news:

Beer producer Heineken South Africa has said it will be cutting its local staff by about 7%, as it grapples with the ongoing ban on alcohol sales.

The Netherlands-based company, whose brands include Windhoek, Amstel and Soweto Gold, employs 1000 people at in its South Africa operations. But it has been adversely impacted by three bans on the sales of alcohol the government has imposed, to keep hospitals free of alcohol-related trauma cases as the country battles with Covid-19.

“Prior to considering this action, the company implemented various cost mitigation measures throughout 2020. Unfortunately, given the ongoing challenging situation the company finds itself in, these measures are no longer adequate to manage and sustain the operating costs of the business,” Mosadi said.

The Foschini Group saw its local sales decline by 0.7% in the past quarter compared to the previous year. But including its newly acquired Jet business, sales rose almost 15%. Cash sales now represent almost 70% of all sales.

Spur’s head of human resources, Graeme Kiewitz, has died from Covid-19, while Sibanye-Stillwater lost its head of SA gold operations, Shadwick Bessit, to the same illness.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Business Insider, ENCA, News24, Moneyweb, EWN, and Fin24.

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