News in South Africa 26th April:
1. Covid vaccine rollout continues:
The Johnson & Johnson Sisonke vaccination programme will resume this Wednesday.
In the US it was found that 6 women, out of 6 million people given the shot, developed blood clotting as a side-effect. This led to a pause of the vaccine in the US, UK and South Africa.
However, having not found any case of blood clotting in South Africa, the vaccine has been cleared for use once again. South Africa has secured millions of J&J doses.
Health authorities say there is a one in a million chance of getting clotting disorders.
Phase one of the vaccination programme, aimed at health workers, is expected to end on 16 May. Those taking part will be required to give consent again.
Authorities have recommended that pregnant and lactating women be excluded.
2. Strikes highly likely:
Government employees were told to prepare for industrial action after a public sector union declared a deadlock in wage negotiations with the state.
The Public Servants Association, which represents more than 235,000 civil servants, said on Saturday that a revised wage proposal by the government is “absurd and amounts to nothing more than shifting funds.”
The state revised its offer using money allocated for pay progression, resettlement costs and daily allowances to fund a cost-of-living adjustment, it said. The union said it would not agree to reduce benefits for public servants and advised its members to prepare for industrial action.
Those targets hinge on the government freezing public-sector salaries over the next three years, with the government proposing a “significant moderation” in spending on wages.
Treasury insists there is no more money, and the best possible offer is on the table.
3. Water treatment shocking:
Billions of litres of poorly treated or untreated sewage, industrial and pharmaceutical wastewater are spewed into our rivers and oceans. By the government’s own admission, 56% of the country’s 1,150 treatment plants are ‘in poor or in critical condition’.
But further investigation reveals further that 75% of 910 municipality-run wastewater treatment works achieved less than 50% compliance to minimum effluent standards last year.
Daily, billions of litres of sewage spill across streets and gutters.
But this is only one aspect of the massive health and environmental issues the country faces: more than half of the country’s wastewater plants that are meant to treat sewage before releasing it back into the environment are failing. A worrying number are “in a state of decay”.
It’s almost impossible to obtain a full picture of sewer network failures in South Africa’s cities and the towns – this would require approaching 234 municipalities individually for information. Not all record the number of reported sewage spillages; Cape Town is a rare exception.
4. Mango might not pay salaries:
State-owned low-cost airline Mango is unlikely to be able to pay the salaries of its 500 or so employees from May as it battles to stay afloat.
The department of public enterprises said at the weekend that it is in discussions with the Mango board and the interim board of parent company SAA about repositioning the national carrier’s subsidiaries in light of delayed government funding.
5. 50% of RAF goes to victims:
The Road Accident Fund (RAF), which compensates injured motorists, passengers, and pedestrians, is in deep financial trouble. The state insurer blames its predicament on exorbitant administrative costs – particularly legal fees – and says that for every rand collected through the fuel levy, claimants only receive 45 cents.
That comes to 93 cents out of the R2.07 consumers pay on every litre of petrol and diesel in a ring-fenced RAF tax.
Detail of the fund’s position came in response to an extraordinary order granted by the high court earlier this month, which suspends – until the end of April – all writs of execution and attachments against the RAF’s essential assets.
The court also ordered the RAF to clear it’s backlog of unpaid claims – older than 180 days – before 30 April. Recent claims not older than 180 days have been suspended from 1 May 2021 until 12 September 2021, to allow the RAF time to improve its operational standing.
The RAF received more than 100,000 new claims in the 2019/2020 financial year. Approximately 46,000 claims remain unsettled after five years, with outstanding payments nearing R50 billion. By March 2020, the RAF’s deficit had ballooned to R322 billion.
The situation has been described as unsustainable by both transport minister Fikile Mbalula and Letsoalo.