News in South Africa 22nd November:
1. Vaccine certificates for local use only:
It will take some time before South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination certificates can be available for use abroad. That’s the word from Acting Director-General at the health department, Dr Nicholas Crisp.
This follows complaints from some people that their certificates aren’t accepted in certain countries overseas.
Crisp says the certificates are only designed for local verification.
“The vaccine certificate was designed for use in South Africa. It was announced, right from the word go, when the minister announced it a couple of months ago,” said Nicholas Crisp, the Health Department’s acting director-general.
“The minister announced that we would do it in three phases: The first phase would be a pilot phase; the second one would be a verifiable phase using a QR code in South Africa using South African technology and the third phase would be an international phase which requires a lot of crypto-security.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla says his department is working fast to make sure that the South African Covid-19 vaccine certificates are recognised worldwide.
There have been reports that the bar codes on the digital certificates are not accepted in some parts of the world.
Meanwhile, Phaahla says the department will advise government not to impose a harsh lockdown as we face the fourth wave.
2. Holiday islands open for tourists:
Nothing says escape from reality, or Covid-19, quite like an island holiday. After nearly two years of being difficult to reach or closed to tourism altogether, several islands within reach of South Africa are reopening to tourists – and some still have availability at reasonable rates for December and January.
South Africa is ideally positioned to take advantage of several famous Indian Ocean destinations, but some lesser-visited Atlantic alternatives also offer incredible island escapes.
If you’re looking for an island holiday with easy flights from South Africa and Covid-19 conditions at time of publication that aren’t entirely onerous.
Here are eight options to consider:
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Reunion Island
3. Eskom hungry for more money:
Embattled power utility Eskom wants more money, and it wants to hike prices by 20%.
Energy regulator Nersa has presented four new options to Eskom for determining the tariffs it will be allowed to charge from April 1 next year, but the utility is persisting with its court application to compel Nersa to process its application according to the existing pricing methodology.
Nersa earlier rejected Eskom’s application, which was revealed to be for a 20% increase, because the existing pricing methodology has lapsed.
Eskom says the current methodology has not lapsed, and Nersa’s own internal legal advisor also said it does not lapse unless Nersa replaces it with a new methodology – which it has not done.
In a letter date November 12 incorporated into its answering affidavit to court, Nersa has put four different options to Eskom to determine its tariffs:
- Eskom and Nersa agree on pricing principles, consult the public and then determine a percentage increase by applying the agreed upon principles.
- Eskom and Nersa agree on a percentage increase and consult the public on it.
- Determine a percentage increase with Eskom as part of a court-ordered settlement in lieu of monies owed to Eskom. This according to Nersa may result in an increase of about 15% and will include about R59 billion “owed” to Eskom due to earlier court orders that resulted from Nersa’s failure to apply the pricing methodology correctly.
- Using the three principles under consultation to determine generation, transmission, distribution and trading tariffs.
The fourth option is the one Nersa prefers.
Its electricity sub-committee on Friday recommended that the regulator adopt the three principles – namely activity-based costing, differentiated costs according to load profile, and marginal pricing – but for implementation only after 2022/23.
Nersa also submitted to court a proposed timetable for determining the tariffs.
4. Financial crisis passed:
The prospect of a serious fiscal crisis in South Africa has diminished, says Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) chief executive Busi Mavuso.
Writing in her weekly open letter, Mavuso said the country has been teetering since its last investment-grade credit rating in 2019. The debt and revenue trajectories of government appeared out of control and it wasn’t clear that National Treasury would be able to resist demands from all quarters that it keeps spending, she said.
“The problem is that such a risk is self-reinforcing. Because companies’ investment decisions are all about the future, they factor in the possibility of a collapse of the government’s finances. That would inevitably trigger a wider economic crisis, leading to major shocks to all companies.
“A year-and-a-half ago, many businesses would have baulked at making large multi-year commitments to invest. The result was lower economic growth, government revenue and employment.”
However, Mavuso said that National Treasury has largely kept its promise and business is starting to regain trust.
She pointed to the recent medium-term budget policy statement which shows that debt is being brought under control and that Treasury is keeping a firm hand on spending. This is important because the calls for Treasury to open the taps, particularly on welfare spending, have been ‘loud and incessant’, she said.
It has also had to impose wage restraint on a civil service that had become used to real increases annually. Being able to hold the line was an important signal to business that Treasury remains firmly on top of government finances, Mavuso said.
“Ironically, this is critical to embedding a sustainable solution to the welfare needs of large parts of our population. While Treasury could have simply acquiesced to demands for programmes with annual costs ranging from R50 billion to multiples more, that could only have ever been short term.
Mavuso said Treasury has been able to improve the fiscal outlook from where we were in February thanks to an unexpected windfall from mining taxes.
This R120 billion in extra collection has enabled it to fund the special Covid grants instituted during the lockdowns to support the most vulnerable, as well as to increase debt repayments.
As a result, the debt outlook foresees the government achieving a primary surplus in 2023/24, which will mark the point at which overall debt levels start to decline. The minerals windfall has been rightly seen as a short-term boon that won’t hold for the long term, she said.
5. Coalition talks hit their deadline:
A clearer picture of who will be in charge in South Africa’s major metros is starting to form – however, agreements and coalitions remain shaky.
The ANC is looking like the prime party in regions like Ekhuruleni and eThekwini, while the DA looks set to take control of Tshwane.
Uncertainty still lingers around Johannesburg. While the bigger parties have entered into coalition agreements with smaller parties, things remain volatile, particularly where demands from smaller parties are not being met.
For example, the DA not supporting Action SA’s bid for mayorship in Joburg, could see the coalition in Tshwane collapse.