News in South Africa 23rd May:

1. Critical nursing shortage:

South Africa is facing a critical shortage of nurses as private hospitals are restricted from training more of caregivers, according to the country’s largest private healthcare network.

Critical nursing shortage
Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr.

Although most South African hospitals have their own nursing colleges, only designated universities can issue professional nursing qualifications.

This is despite the fact that the country has an estimated shortage of between 26,000 and 62,000 nurses, as well as a large proportion of health workers due to retire by 2030, Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare said in an interview Monday.

“The tragedy is we’ve got tens of thousands of people applying to become nurses every year, and in a country that is beset by such a skill shortage, by such rampant unemployment, it’s almost inexplicable that government isn’t opening the doors to allow the private sector to train,” he said.

Netcare has the capacity to train more than 3,500 nurses a year, but has only been accredited to take about 10% of that, said Friedland.

He said the company is collaborating with the government and other bodies to try and make better use of excess nursing college capacity.

“It’s akin to the Eskom crisis,” he said, referring to the crippling power cuts South Africa is facing because Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state-owned company that supplies about 90% of the nation’s electricity, can’t meet demand from its dilapidated plants.

“The private sector, through the Hospital Association of South Africa, is galvanized at the moment. We’re exploring all of our options in this regard, and we’re not excluding taking legal action.”

Nursing shortages are not unique to South Africa, and many countries are facing severe shortages of workers post-pandemic.

2. Strict new BEE laws could result in job losses:

The Democratic Alliance (DA) estimates that if the newly proposed employment equity legislation goes ahead, it could result in roughly 600,000 South Africans losing their jobs over the next five years.

The president signed the new employment equity laws in April, with the Department of Employment and Labour planning to promulgate the regulations later this year. In the meantime, the department has published the sectoral targets under the new laws for public comment.

The targets have already drawn wide criticism from labour unions and business groups for being difficult to understand and riddled with numerical errors. Legal experts, meanwhile, have warned that the regulations could face challenges in court due to administrative, procedural and other issues involved.

The new laws give the employment minister the authority to establish specific numerical goals for the racial and gender diversity of designated businesses (businesses with more than 50 employees).

At its core, the new sectoral targets push businesses in South Africa to transform their workforce to be more demographically representative – especially in top and senior management positions.

To accomplish this, it sets a target for companies to make their employee composition reflect the racial and gender profile of each province or nationally. These goals must be met within a period of five years, and failure to comply results in fines.

Seeking clarity on the situation, the DA submitted parliamentary questions to break down the labour department’s modelling on how the new targets were ascertained.

The party asked the minister of labour to:

  • Outline the specific statistical models and techniques used to determine the targets
  • Provide the specific demographic and labour market data that was used as inputs
  • Show how potential confounding factors, such as sectoral differences, rural vs urban divides and small business challenges were taken into account
  • Provide the specific steps taken to validate the methodology used

3. Schools in Joburg’s rates crosshairs again:

The City of Joburg is trying to take another bite of the rates apple with regard to property used for education purposes – proposing policy changes that will result in a debilitating increase in their rates bills from 1 July.

This comes despite a court order obtained by listed education groups Curro Holdings and AdvTech as well as the Independent Institute for Education and AfriForum that limits the increase to 4.85% for the current financial year as well as the next, which starts on 1 July.

The city’s proposal, contained in its draft rates policy, will be tabled for approval around mid-June, but stakeholders can still object before the 29 May deadline, says Julie Suddaby, DA councillor and former Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for finance.

Steep increase

AfriForum says if the proposal is approved, a school currently valued at R100 million and paying R18 900 per month for property rates will see an increase to R113 400 per month for public schools – and R190 000 for independent schools.

It will apply to all property used for educational purposes, from a nursery school to tertiary institutions.

It was previously reported that the city scrapped the special category for property used for educational purposes in its rates policy for the current year.

Importantly, in terms of the special category, the tariff for educational properties was a quarter of that for residential property.

Without it, and according to the revised policy, public schools would have been taxed as ‘public service’ property and independent schools would have been taxed as businesses, and be subjected to dramatically higher tariffs.

4. Astral Foods warns of social unrest:

Astral Foods has warned SA is likely to experience political instability and further policy uncertainty in the lead up to the 2024 elections, with the government “asleep at the wheel” as infrastructure deteriorates and municipal service delivery fails.

Reporting a crash in its half-year to end March on Monday, SA’s biggest chicken producer also warned the country is facing increased threats to its food security and intensifying poverty.

The company, valued at over R7 billion on the JSE, suffered an 89% crash in continuing profits to R62 million in its six months to end March, hit R741 million on load shedding costs and a R705 million increase in working capital requirements. 

It also declared no dividend, even though revenue rose about 6% to almost R10 billion – driven by higher prices – in an “extremely trying operational environment”. 

In its outlook statement, it said was concerned that “in the lead up to the 2024 national elections a period of instability is expected, as well as both policy uncertainty and poor service delivery from the government”.

It said the macro-economic crisis with “negligible to no economic growth” was “hampering any prospects for job creation with disposable income under severe pressure as the cost-of-living-crisis deepens and recession looms large”.

At the same time, “failing infrastructure and the lack of service of delivery” from a “government that is asleep at the wheel” was “placing a massive cost burden on businesses and the consumer alike”.

It also flagged the failure of state-owned enterprises such as Eskom and Transnet as important contributing factors in the deterioration of agricultural sector in SA.

5. 6 month wait for Kusile:

South Africans will have to wait at least six months before seeing some results with the country’s load shedding challenges.

Electricity Minister Kgosietsho Ramokgopa revealed this during a tour of the Kusile power station on Monday.

He said that should three units at this power station come back online by December, the country could see at least three lower stages of load shedding.

He, however, warned that while he was optimistic about this prospect, he could not say for sure that we won’t experience stage 8 at some point.

Ramokgopa said that he was happy with the progress made in returning three units to operation at Kusile.

The electricity minister said that the power station was critical in addressing the country’s load shedding crisis.

“And those units collectively, if they were operating today, if you can imagine they are each giving us about 800 megawatts, we will have about 3,200 megawatts. Essentially, we are talking about three stages of load shedding “

He added that the earliest all three Kusile units could come back online was in December, and that’s if all went according to plan.

All information sourced from articles posted by: DailyInvestor, BusinessTech, Moneyweb, Fin24, and EWN.

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