News in South Africa 23rd October:

1. Covid-19 cases rising:

COVID-19 infections across the country are increasing, but in the Western Cape there seems to be some confusion over the rate of the increase.

Covid-19 cases rising
“Ithuba National Lottery Fund hands over reusable face masks Ministers Zweli Mkhize and Bheki Cele in Sandton” by GovernmentZA is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize said there’s been a 42-percent rise in the province while Premier Alan Winde says it’s less than 20-percent.

The Western Cape says their increases over a seven-day rolling average are just over 13.6-percent.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim said that the politicking around the increase in the Western Cape – whether it’s 20% or 42% – is largely irrelevant as the factual situation is that cases are increasing.

The Free State, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape are the largest contributors to the growing numbers.

2. Load shedding highly likely:

During Eskom’s quarterly state of the system briefing on Thursday, the power utility’s officials said that load shedding will likely persist in the near future as plants undergo much-needed reliability maintenance.

Both stage 1 and stage 2 load shedding are expected. The majority of coal-fired power stations are past the midway of their operational life – which has resulted in huge amounts of breakdowns, this has warranted reliability maintenance and refurbishment projects up until the winter of 2021.

Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter says that the power utility was forced into load shedding in July and August – despite expectations that it would limit it to 3 days – because of ‘the worst winter in 10 years’.

The CEO said that during cold snaps, demand exceeded what the utility had anticipated, even before lockdown began. High demand due to the cold weather exceeding expectations and available capacity, and so load shedding had to be implemented.

3. Tender corruption progress:

Two more people will soon join four former Gauteng health department officials who appeared in court on Thursday over allegations of wrongdoing in awarding tenders 11 years ago.

The two men and their companies will later join former head of department Sybil Ngcobo and three former officials who appeared at the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court on Thursday.

The two company directors would have appeared with the quartet on Thursday but the warrants of arrest could not be executed because they were overseas, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said.

The NPA said that in addition to the two directors, more people were likely to be apprehended in the alleged corruption, which was first probed by the Special Investigating Unit and followed up by the Hawks.

The four will appear again on December 3.

4. Oceana releases data:

The fishing group Oceana expects its profit for the year to end-September to climb by as much as 18% thanks to strong demand for its products, which are predominately consumed at home.

Oceana owns Lucky Star, among other brands. Its fish catches also improved.

Shareholders are accordingly advised that:

  • Basic earnings per share (EPS) for the year ended 30 September 2020 is expected to increase between 21% and 26%, to between 639.2 cents per share and 665.7 cents per share compared to the 528.3 cents per share reported in the previous financial year.
  • Basic headline earnings per share (HEPS) for the year ended 30 September 2020 is expected to increase between 13% and 18%, to between 615.1 cents per share and 642.3 cents per share compared to the 544.3 cents per share reported in the previous financial year.

Oceana was classified as an essential service provider in all geographies in which we operate during
the peak COVID-19 lockdown period and was accordingly able to continue operating with all employees
abiding by stringent standard operating procedures and protocols to safeguard their health and well-

5. Budget speech in the spotlight:

When Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his 2020 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), or mini budget, on Wednesday 28 October, the initial response will come from the markets. Analysts and opinion writers will weigh in afterwards with thoughtful comments, but the markets will be the first acid test of its credibility.

The MTBPS casts a net over fiscal planning for the next three years.

In his emergency 2020/21 budget in June — which replaced the February Budget the Covid-19 economic meltdown had consigned to the scrapheap — Mboweni forecast debt would reach 87.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024, after hitting 81.8% this year, up from the just over 65% predicted in February 2020.

In reaction to the economic plan President Cyril Ramaphosa recently unveiled, the Minerals Council South Africa, which represents the mining industry, said business wanted to see structural reforms.

“Business believes that these structural reforms should include much greater private sector participation and competition in infrastructure (electricity, ports, pipelines, rail); a much more sustainable fiscal policy and balanced budgets; and institutional reforms (a smaller, more efficient and more capable state),” it said.

Mboweni can flag all these things in his address — reducing the state’s role in such areas will free up its scarce capital for use in others. Education, health and welfare would all be great places to put it, but some of it will have to go to paying down the debt.

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

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