News in South Africa 23rd June:

1. Weekend vaccinations low:

As South Africa continues with its vaccination strategy, a glaring hole in the numbers shows up over the weekend, where only a few thousand people are vaccinated on Saturdays and Sundays compared to the tens of thousands every other day in the week.

Weekend vaccinations low
Image taken by: SHVETS production

According to provincial departments, the reason for this is a lack of funding – they cannot afford to pay staff to work over weekends.

While departments are working to resolve this, even in the best-case scenario weekend vaccinations will only start happening from July in places like the Western Cape.

In other vaccination news, South Africa’s Phelophepa Healthcare Train, which is planning to bring Covid-19 vaccines to communities in Gauteng and the Free State, was scheduled to arrive at Dube station in Soweto on Saturday. It arrived two days later, hitched to a diesel locomotive, due to cable theft and “severe” damage to railway infrastructure.

As the country’s public healthcare response shudders under the pressure of a new wave, the Phelophepa train has been enlisted to assist with Covid-19 testing, screening, and vaccinations. The train, which traces its roots back almost three decades, is operated by Transnet and the department of health. A newer version of the locomotive – Phelophepha II – made its inaugural visit to Gauteng in September 2020, assisting with Covid-19 testing in Springs, Olifantsfontein, and Soweto.

The train reaches disadvantaged communities that lack adequate healthcare resources. Expanding on its Covid-19 testing capabilities, Phelophepa recently completed a vaccination programme which is expected to be rolled out to other stations.

“As part of the national vaccine rollout initiative, we are in discussions with the Gauteng Department of Health to link the vaccine rollout to Phelophepa at each of the identified stations,” Avasha Gopaulsingh, director of the Transnet Foundation’s social mobilisation partner, Nemacure, told Business Insider South Africa.

“A successful rollout was held at Springs and Olifantsfontein stations over the past five weeks.”

2. South Africans staying home:

Google’s latest mobility report suggests that South Africans are slowly starting to spend more time at home, and less time at restaurants, shopping centres, cinemas, and the office, as the country’s third wave of Covid-19 infections takes hold.

Apple, which collects its own mobility data, has also recorded drops in movement across the country. The company says that Johannesburgers are currently driving 39% less, while Capetonians are driving 40% less. Across the country, however, South Africans are only spending 28% less time in their cars.

Nationally, Google data suggests visits to places like parks and beaches have also dropped across the board, and public transport usage is 20% lower – although June’s public holiday and colder winter weather may, to a degree, have helped keep some of these numbers artificially low.

South Africa Mobility Stats
South Africa Mobility Stats Sourced from: Business Insider

The general drop in mobility comes as the country grapples with its third wave of Covid-19 infections – but the data, released periodically by Google to identify movement trends, suggests that Gauteng, the country’s current Covid-19 epicentre, took a while to catch on.

Gauteng saw a spike in visits to places of “retail and recreation” – restaurants, shopping centres, and cinemas – in late May. This spike came more than one week after the Gauteng premier officially announced that the province had entered its third wave.

3. New crypto scam:

South Africa has suffered another apparent crypto scam – much larger than the losses from the MTI scam.

The Africrypt scheme reportedly suffered a ‘hack’ in April 2021, in which the equivalent of R54 billion was swiped from directors’ wallets.

While hundreds of thousands of investors were scrambling to find out what happened to funds they had invested in failed crypto scam Mirror Trading International (MTI), a far bigger crypto disappearing act was playing out without hardly anyone paying attention.

Africrypt, which reportedly counts several high profile South Africans and celebrities among its investors, was hacked on or about April 13.

A staggering $3.6 billion (roughly R54 billion) was swiped out of multiple wallets controlled by directors of the company in a matter of hours. This is according to an analysis, conducted by Hanekom Attorneys, of blockchain transactions involving wallets controlled by Africrypt.

The ‘hack’ is deemed extremely suspicious by investigators, not least because the two founders of Africrypt – Raees and Ameer Cajee – reportedly disappeared to the UK within days of this happening.

Though the investigation is still ongoing with multiple regulatory authorities now looking into it, this may turn out to be one of the biggest financial scandals in SA’s history. Not quite Steinhoff-scale, but way larger than MTI.

The reason Africrypt attracted such little public attention was that clients were asked not to alert authorities as this would frustrate the recovery of assets from the hackers. That, according to Hanekom Attorneys, which represents several Africrypt clients, allowed the perpetrators time to make good their escape with crypto worth more than R50 billion.

4. Big ID and Home Affairs changes:

Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi says that his department will ramp up services in the coming months in preparation for the local government elections.

Answering in a written parliamentary Q&A, Motsoaledi said that Home Affairs will prioritise its services to those who have applied for their identity documents ahead of the general elections by issuing election enabling documents – such as identity documents and temporary identification certificates – on the spot to those whose identity documents are lost.

Motsoaledi said that his department has also developed a specific ID distribution strategy which will see several improvements, including:

  • Provinces will deploy mobile units for people to collect their green barcoded identity books.
  • Mobile offices will be deployed to service a cluster of voter registration stations for assistance with green barcoded identity books.
  • Home Affairs will rescan all green barcoded identity books on hand and send SMSs to clients informing them to collect IDs.
  • A contingency plan has been put in place to provide back-office support services, in cases where front offices are experiencing problems with the issuance of IDs and temporary identification certificates.
  • Clients will be able to contact the call centre using 0800 60 11 90 to establish the status of their identity documents.

Motsoaledi said that Home Affairs also plans to extend its operational hours during the voter’s registration weekend as well as on the scheduled election days.

Motsoaledi has also said that his department is looking at making long-term improvements to Home Affairs system by shifting to a private IT provider.

5. SAA deal not complete yet:

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that the deal between SAA and the Takatso consortium is not finalised.

He said due diligence was being conducted at SAA and at the consortium. “As much as they may be a preferred partner, a deal has not been done,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa was speaking during a question-and-answer session in Cape Town after he announced the establishment of the National Ports Authority as an independent subsidiary of Transnet.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Takatso consortium’s CEO Gidon Novick said he was not worried about raising R3.5bn for the ailing airline’s relaunch. According to the report, the company has been approached by international investors but turned them down because it prefers local backers.

Ramaphosa was asked what made the government confident about selling a majority stake in SAA to the consortium.

He responded: “Due diligence means you want to look at everything closely to see whether the various conditions and parameters you have set will indeed be fulfilled. There is no deal. They have passed a certain post. They are now in due diligence and, having been involved in businesses in the past, I know for a fact that [this] does not mean a done deal.”

He said once the process has been conducted and the partner “shows us the money, because that is where the rubber hits the tar,” was when the deal will be deemed concluded.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, News 24, Business Insider, Moneyweb, and TimesLive.

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