News in South Africa 22nd July:

1. More vaccinations through medical aid:

The latest data on South Africa’s vaccine rollout shows that more people with medical aid are getting the vaccine than those without – with 18% of medical aid members already receiving the shot, versus 6% of those without.

More vaccinations through medical aid
Image taken by: Gustavo Fring

The department says this is concerning since the goal is vaccine equity.

9 million people have medical aid cover in South Africa, so that’s around 1.7 million who have received the vaccine, compared to 3 million people off-scheme.

There’s some good news though. Around one million people are being vaccinated every four days. The target is to achieve that number every three to three-and-a-half days. This would result in 35 million people being vaccinated before Christmas.

Medical experts say some side effects to the vaccine should be expected – such as a sore arm and headaches – but more severe symptoms like palpitations and shortness of breath need medical attention.

2. GDP likely to remain unchanged:

South Africa’s central bank will probably keep the benchmark interest rate unchanged and lower its economic-growth forecasts on Thursday as the country reels from a third wave of Covid-19 restrictions and after deadly riots.

While output rose more than expected in the three months through March and data, including the composite leading business-cycle indicator, suggest an acceleration in gross domestic product in the second quarter, the unrest that erupted in South Africa last week is a key risk to the outlook for 2021.

The looting and arson, and reintroduction of a strict lockdown are likely to push policy makers to lower their 4.2% expansion projection for this year and may push out their prediction that output will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

Economists, including Michael Kafe of Barclays Bank, see the riot damage shaving as much as one percentage point off GDP growth in 2021.

That could see the monetary policy committee delay the start of an interest rate hiking cycle. The panel has since late last year signaled that its next move will be up and the last time any of its five members voted for easing was in January.

3. Construction industry boosted by riots:

The recent unrest in South Africa will prove to be bittersweet for the construction industry, which will ‘win’ at the end of the day, boosted by various reconstruction efforts to clean up and rebuild the damage caused by arsonists and looters

South Africa’s construction industry may receive a short term boost from the rebuilding of damaged and destroyed infrastructure, buildings and structures in last week’s unrest and looting but the longer term outlook for the sector is more uncertain.

Both the SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) and Master Builders South Africa (MBSA) believe the building and construction industry could receive a short term boost but have also highlighted the disruption to existing projects.

MBSA executive director Roy Mnisi said on Wednesday some of the construction sites of its members had to close because of the unrest, which will result in a lot of litigation because these work stoppages will mean that some projects will now not be completed on time.

“A few members have already written to inform us about projects where force majeure has been declared,” he said.

Force majeure is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond their control prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Mfebe said infrastructure investment has been dealt a blow by the unrest and looting because of the impact on domestic and international business confidence in the South African economy.

This flows from the perception that the rule of law and maintenance of law and order is failing in the country, he said.

Mfebe said the government’s strategic integrated projects (SIPs) will be impacted, particularly if contractors are afraid to go back on site, but stressed the SIPs were insufficient to get the economy out of the doldrums.

4. Almost 1,700 in custody amid SA unrest:

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has made more than 3,400 arrests in connection with the civil unrest which recently swept across KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Almost 1,700 suspects have been admitted as remand detainees and already-overcrowded correctional facilities are struggling to accommodate those awaiting trial.

The wave of deadly civil unrest, which peaked between 12 and 16 July, has left in its wake a trail of devastation. Approximately 200 malls were set upon by looters – with dozens gutted by arson – disrupting industrial supply chains and putting more than 150,000 jobs at risk according to the South African Property Owners’ Association.

At least 212 people died during the riots, with scores more injured. Thousands have been arrested by SAPS, with support from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and face charges relating to murder, arson, assault, and possession of stolen property.

As the dust settles over parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with police conducting door-to-door operations to recover stolen goods, businesses assessing damages, and supply routes reopening, South Africa’s judicial system is being prepared to deal with a slew of criminal cases.

The meeting, with presentations by the NPA and correctional services, detailed the response to the civil unrest. Cases handled by the NPA have been divided into four categories in ascending order of seriousness:

  • Actual looters and persons participating in stealing from shops and outlets
  • Persons found in possession of stolen properties
  • Groups and individuals stealing property in big quantities, organised, or planned action
  • Enticement or inciting public violence (to be handled by experienced prosecutors assigned from Organised Crime and Priority Crimes Litigation Unit)

At least 1,800 case dockets have been referred to the NPA, although the authority’s Adv Rodney De Kock stressed that these numbers were constantly changing and that authorities were still trying to correlate the number of arrests and active dockets. The presentation by the NPA listed the following tally of case dockets shared by SAPS:

  • Murder: 197
  • Attempted murder: 50
  • Arson: 55
  • Malicious injury to property: 234
  • Possession of suspected stolen property :  598
  • Inquests (Gauteng): 3
  • Other (Assault GBH, lockdown contraventions, etc): 664
  • High Profile cases: 4 in court

5. Schools to reopen:

The Department of Basic Education is proceeding with plans to reopen schools, says acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

Ntshavheni said that Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga will brief the nation on the re-opening of the education sector on Sunday (25 July).

The Department of Basic Education previously gazetted Monday (26 July) as the official reopening date for schools, but this could still change if president Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet extend the level 4 lockdown.

The situation is being reviewed weekly, the Department of Basic Education said.

While all government school students are expected to return in some capacity from 26 July, a timetable change will also see primary school learners (Grades R – 7) return to school from 2 August for the first time in more than a year.

Since South Africa first introduced Covid-19 lockdown restrictions at the end of March 2020, most students are learning in a ‘shift system’ – with a large amount of coursework still expected to be done at home to encourage social distancing.

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

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