News in South Africa 20th May:
1. Schools to reopen 1 June:
The National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet have approved the reopening of schools as of 1 June, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has announced.
Motshekga made the announcement on Tuesday during a media briefing where she outlined the state of readiness of schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The minister said independent or private schools would also be opening in the metropolitan areas, adding the revised school calendar would be gazetted soon.
She added schools should adhere to and observe health and safety protocols that would be in place when schools reopen.
Pupils, teachers and support staff will be receiving orientation and training at the start of the school reopening, which will start with grades 7 and 12 as well as “small schools”.
2. Covid-19 projections seem bleak:
More than 40 000 people are expected to die from the coronavirus in South Africa by November, one million people will be infected and the country is unlikely to have enough ICU beds at the peak of the pandemic.
This according to a presentation by a group of scientists advising the government on projections and modelling to inform policy and regulations.
Dr Sheetal Silal, who led the presentation in a virtual meeting co-ordinated by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, said projections showed there would be 40 000 deaths by November with 475 expected deaths by the end of May.
Silal said all projections showed the threshold for ICU beds for Covid-19 cases in the country would be exceeded by the start of July in the optimistic projection and by June in the pessimistic projection.
“They are projected to be exceeded early on the pandemic.” South Africa has 4 000 ICU beds across the country, with “plans to add additional” beds, but the country would need between 25 000 and 40 000 ICU beds at the peak of the virus in September.
“When the ICU bed threshold is exceeded, those requiring but not getting an ICU bed will be occupying a general hospital bed,” Silal said.
Meanwhile MediClinic has told staff it expects 200 000 Covid-19 cases in the Western Cape by early July, while it expects cases in Gauteng to reach 100 000 by November.
3. Dis-Chem reports profits:
Dis-Chem – which is refusing to pay full rent during lockdown – has reported a 12% increase in revenue to R24 billion for the year to end-February.
Despite being one of only a few retailers allowed to trade through the lockdown, Dis-Chem is refusing to pay its full rent to mall owners.
Despite doing brisk business – in a statement on Sunday, Dis-Chem acknowledged that trade in March was higher than it expected – the company says it is trying to negotiate a “fair rental” with landlords.
“Based on the prevailing situation and the extended lockdown we have paid all levies and other municipal costs together with a fair and significant portion of the base rental together with suggesting a turnover based rental.”
“This, we feel, is a fair compromise considering the very depressed restricted trading environment.”
Its competitor Clicks, however, is paying rent, Business Day noted.
4. Hope for Comair:
The business rescue practitioners of Comair, the owner of kulula.com and the local operator of British Airways, believe there’s a reasonable prospect for the airline to be saved as its assets exceed its liabilities.
The airline operator, which was struggling before the lockdown began at the end of March that grounded all its flights, went into business rescue earlier this month. Business rescue practitioners Shaun Collyer and Richard Ferguson told creditors and other stakeholders that the 77-year-old company had R7.42 billion in assets on its balance sheet compared to liabilities of R5.48 billion.
The assets include R790 million that was unrecoverable after SAA entered business rescue in early December 2019. The money was for outstanding payments still owed on a R1.1 billion settlement in a Competition Commission case.
The practitioners said the airline was competitively well placed with 39% market share for domestic travel. A successful rescue would, however, depend on the support of all stakeholders.
In terms of the Companies Act, the business rescue practitioners will now prepare a plan in consultation with creditors, shareholders, registered trade unions and employees. If approved and adopted, the plan would be then be implemented.
5. Denel unable to pay salaries:
South African state defence firm Denel said on Tuesday it could not pay salaries for May and wages for June and July were at risk, highlighting the gravity of its financial position.
Denel is one of a number of struggling state enterprises the government has been keeping afloat with bailouts but are now being battered by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite a slight easing of South Africa’s lockdown restrictions this month, Denel is running a reduced operation.
“Denel is not in a position to pay salaries for May. Also the June and July salaries are in serious jeopardy,” Denel said in a message to employees.
Trade union Solidarity said Denel had around 100 million rand ($5.5 million) of orders in limbo because export permits weren’t being issued during the lockdown.
“Those are exactly the type of orders that determine whether people can be paid salaries or not,” the union’s defence and aviation sector coordinator Helgard Cronje said.
Denel, which makes military hardware for the armed forces in South Africa and around the world, is awaiting a 576 million rand bailout announced in a budget speech in February, after receiving a 1.8 billion rand bailout last year.