News in South Africa 26th August:

1. Vaccines and purchasing alcohol:

The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) has dismissed a proposal that Covid-19 vaccinations should be a requirement for purchasing alcohol, warning that it is not a viable option for South Africa.

Vaccines and purchasing alcohol
Image taken by: FRANK MERIÑO

The industry body said that it supports public education and awareness efforts to encourage vaccination and behaviours that prevent infections such as social distancing, wearing of masks and regular use of sanitisers.

Salba said that its members are actively encouraging their employees to take the vaccine, and will work with all stakeholders to promote the vaccine drive to reach population or herd immunity. However, it said that it does not have room to block customers from buying alcohol.

“We do not believe the proposal is viable because businesses, irrespective of the product offering cannot deny access to consumers.

“Health education and awareness programmes are the established measures to encourage voluntary uptake for health interventions,” it said.

The alcohol industry group was responding to a proposal mooted by Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba, who said her department was in discussions with liquor traders in the province about refusing to sell alcohol to unvaccinated customers.

Ramathuba said that while there is no national legislation that forces people to vaccinate, the government needs to look at other ways of increasing vaccine uptake.

“It is not compulsory in our country, and that includes Limpopo. However, as a health department, we can’t just fold our arms and keep complaining about vaccine hesitancy when we know we can engage the liquor industry.”

Ramathuba said that the liquor industry is one of the segments which is hardest hit when a new wave of Covid-19 cases impacts the country, with the government quick to ban alcohol to help reduce the strain on hospitals.

The MEC said that there is an opportunity for South Africa to avert a fourth Covid-19 wave of infections later this year if enough people are vaccinated.

She said it is up to the liquor industry to decide whether it accepts the government’s proposals  – but warned that alcohol could be banned again if another wave hits the country.

2. SAA returns with local flights:

Embattled national airline South African Airways confirmed on Wednesday that it will be back in the skies servicing the Johannesburg-Cape Town route and five other African regional destinations as of September 23, ahead of the Heritage Day long weekend.

The airline has effectively been grounded since late March last year, when the country went into a Covid-19  “hard lockdown” and SAA’s financial woes worsened amid the worst crisis for the aviation industry in its history.

With both international and local flights initially banned, all major local airlines and most major international airlines were force to ground flights.

Most of the local airlines have since recommence flights in a stop start fashion based on lockdown levels, but SAA has remained grounded in order to finalise its business rescue and the planned sale of a majority stake in the airline to a private consortium that includes Global Airways and Harith General Partners.

“The wait is finally over. In just under a month, the striking and familiar livery of SAA will once again be visible in the skies as the airline resumes operations,” SAA declared in a statement on Wednesday.

SAA noted that tickets will go on sale as of Thursday, August 26, 2021.

“After months of diligent work, we are delighted that SAA is resuming service and we look forward to welcoming on board our loyal passengers and flying the South African flag. We continue to be a safe carrier and adhering to Covid-19 protocols,” said interim SAA CEO Thomas Kgokolo.

Kalula returns as well:

Kulula, a subsidiary of Comair which also operates British Airways flights in South Africa, will take-off again on 1 September, after being voluntarily grounded for almost three months. It’s looking to entice passengers aboard with discounts of up to 30% off domestic flights.

The relaunch has been bolstered by discounts offered on ten domestic routes flown by Kulula. The sale started at 18:00 on Wednesday and ends at midnight on Thursday. The “one day online only” deal applies to travel periods between 1 and 20 September and 12 October to 26 March 2022.

3. SA’s Cannabis Master Plan:

South Africa is developing a strategy for the industrialisation and commercialisation of cannabis. The Cannabis Master Plan targets legislative reform, the development of a national seed supply system, formal education initiatives, and financial assistance for new small-scale and traditional growers.

The potential size of South Africa’s commercial cannabis industry is estimated to be worth around R28 billion and has the potential to create up to 25,000 jobs, according to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

But current legislation, despite the private use of cannabis being decriminalised by the constitutional court in 2018, is a major hurdle in realising the economic potential of commercialisation.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill, still to be approved by parliament, does not make provision for the commercialisation of cannabis. And until amendments are made to the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act – to better align with the Medicines Act, which governs the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, import, and export of THC containing medicines – industrialisation remains prohibited, as noted by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC).

The Cannabis Master Plan, developed by the DALRRD, with input from the DTIC and several other departments, provides a regulatory framework to overcome these legislative hurdles. Beyond that, it lists practical ways in which to support the industry’s growth. An update on the Cannabis Master Plan was presented by the DALRRD to parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Wednesday.

“The schedules for the Medicines Act have been amended to reschedule cannabis which has helped a lot in moving us closer and closer to commercialisation,” said Thabo Ramashala of the DALRRD in his presentation to parliament.

While the first step to commercialising cannabis in South Africa rests with clear and effective regulatory systems, the Cannabis Master Plan lists eight other pillars and focus areas:

  • Creating a sustainable seed supply system
  • Supporting research and development programmes
  • Supporting farmers to participate in the cannabis value chains
  • Developing new domestic and export markets
  • Supporting a wide range of suppliers to participate in the sector
  • Supporting the growth and development of the manufacturing sector
  • Education and training for those looking to enter the cannabis sector
  • A communication and awareness campaign

4. Wage war continues:

The unions – including the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), South African Democratic Teachers Union, Public Servants Association, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), and Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) – have approached the Constitutional Court to appeal against the Labour Appeal Court ruling.

The case will arguably have major implications for future collective bargaining processes and how contracts are negotiated between employers and employees. A ruling by the Constitutional Court on whether to uphold the earlier court’s ruling or overturn it will also reverberate in the private sector. A win by the government could also embolden employers in the private sector to walk away from collective agreements if their financial or economic circumstances change.

But the impact will immediately be felt in the public sector. From September 2021, the government and trade unions will start salary negotiations for 2022. A Constitutional Court ruling could help the government double down on not awarding salary increases or push trade unions to negotiate hard for cost-of-living salary adjustments.

SA’s trade union movement is angry, arguing at the start of the Constitutional Court hearing on Tuesday that the salary increase agreement is akin to a contract and is binding on the government.

Advocate William Mokhari, acting for Nehawu, argued that the agreement should be viewed through the Labour Relations Act and Section 23 of the Constitution, which both protect the rights of workers and promote fair labour practices and the collective bargaining process.

Mokhari also questioned why the government had complied with the agreement for two years, if it was unaffordable, only to reject it by the third year. “The moment the agreement was signed, it was binding. The government cannot be allowed to simply walk away from it.”

The unions believe that public servants are still owed salary increases under the last leg of the agreement.  If the top court rules in the favour of unions, advocate Ngwako Maenetje, acting for Cosatu, Popcru and Denosa, has proposed that all parties should negotiate and find ways to remedy outstanding salary increases. “This is important for accountability,” he said.

5. ANC staff strike over no salaries:

ANC offices will be closed from Thursday as staff strike over unpaid salaries and other grievances.

This after further money woes at the party which, for the umpteenth time, was unable to pay salaries.

Staff were told on Wednesday in a letter from ANC general manager Febe Potgieter that their outstanding July salaries would not be paid. On top of this, the salaries due on August 25 will also not be paid.

Potgieter told staff that this was the first time the ANC had failed to pay salaries for three consecutive months.

In a statement, ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said that party management had received a notice from staff that they would “go on strike” from Thursday.

This was “in support of grievances submitted on June 15 2021, including late payments of salaries”.

“As a result of this wildcat strike, ANC offices throughout the country will be closed as of tomorrow. The ANC management will continue to engage with staff representatives on their grievances, with a view to find a solution, so that we can resume normal operations,” Mabe said.

In the wake of the news, staff convened an urgent meeting where it was decided that the only response was to immediately cease working.

The party has also failed to pay provident and pension funds for more than two years.

In their demand letter, staff said they wanted all pension and provident fund contributions to be paid immediately, as well as  outstanding salaries of July and August.

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

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