News in South Africa 27th September:
1. Finally out of third wave:
South Africa has exited the third wave of Covid-19 according to experts, with the country recording an average of 2,000 new cases per day last week – a 40% decline in cases from the week before.
According to senior researcher at the CSIR, Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, this marks the end of the third wave, with hospitalisations also dropping by 32%, and deaths decreasing by 35%.
The number of positive tests nationally has also declined to 6.8 percent on average.
Suliman said that there are now only 4 new cases per 100,000 people, which is 11% of what we were seeing during the peak of the third wave a few weeks ago.
In South Africa, there have been 967 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,896,943. Deaths have reached 87,052 (+51), while recoveries have climbed to 2,760,093, leaving the country with a balance of 49,798 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 16,827,790 (+12,900).
2. Overhaul to Eskom pricing:
Energy regulator Nersa proposes an overhaul of Eskom’s price determination structures.
A discussion paper published by energy regulator Nersa on Heritage Day, September 24, calls for a complete overhaul of the ways Eskom’s tariffs are set.
It proposes a move away from the current revenue-based approach to determine electricity tariffs in South Africa to a cost-to-serve approach that might benefit large power users who have been subsidising residential customers for years.
Stakeholders have until October 29 to submit written comments, after which Nersa will hold public hearings via Microsoft Teams. The regulator hopes to finalise the new methodology by mid-November.
It is expected to decide next week whether to reject Eskom’s tariff application for the next three financial years, which was submitted early in June. This application has been drafted in terms of the rules for the current tariff period, referred to as Multi Year Tariff Determination 4 (MYPD4).
If Nersa approves this proposal from its own electricity sub-committee (ELS) to send Eskom back to the drawing board in terms of the new rules, it will have to devise an interim measure for determining at least the 2022/23 tariffs, since it takes Eskom about a year to draft a tariff application.
Eskom’s tariffs for 2022/23 have to be finalised by March 15, when the utility must table the tariffs in parliament. The tariffs take effect on April 1 for Eskom’s direct customers and municipalities increase their tariffs for end-users on July 1.
Ideally Eskom’s new tariffs should be known by December for municipalities to incorporate them in their budgets, which are implemented on July 1.
Over the last decade electricity prices have increased by 175%, outstripping the consumer price index (CPI).
3. Disruption of water supply:
Water supply will be severely disrupted many areas of Gauteng on Monday after a power outage at an Eskom sub-station.
Rand Water said its Zuikerbosch water treatment works in Vereeniging had been “severely affected by a power interruption” at Eskom’s Snowden sub-station due to a veld fire on Sunday afternoon.
“Eskom is working on restoring power but cannot provide an estimated return to service,” said Rand Water.
“The power outage has resulted in Rand Water losing 60% of its production capacity at the Zuikerbosch water treatment works.”
The entity said its municipal customers, including the city of Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg Water, City of Tshwane, Mogale City local municipality, Rustenberg municipality and West Rand local municipality, would be affected.
“The supply of water will be severely reduced as a result of this power loss.
“Rand Water would like to urge consumers to conserve water as it is not known how long this Eskom crisis will last.”
4. Public sector medical aid fraud:
The public sector medical aid scheme GEMS says that the industry is losing R22 billion a year to fraudulent claims.
One of the most common fraudulent activities is pharmacies billing the medical scheme for high-cost medication, particularly when they are in a remote location that couldn’t possibly service the numbers they purport.
Other common fraudulent claims come from dieticians and physios billing for services they do not render; and collusion between patients and doctors, claiming back for things like hearing aids, and instead giving cash back.
5. New “ethics unit” introduced:
The government has introduced a new ‘ethics unit’ targeting unscrupulous public sector employees, including those whose lifestyles don’t match their salaries, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, Ramaphosa said that around 16,000 employees on the government payroll were irregularly paid the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant, while more than 17,000 people employed at national and provincial government submitted applications for the grant.
This willful intent to steal from the public purse is unforgivable, and the government is now stepping up its efforts to prevent this kind of abuse and act against anyone in the public service involved in wrongdoing, he said.
“This month, the government launched a new Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit. The unit will build capacity within public bodies to institute disciplinary proceedings in cases of misconduct and cooperate with other organs of state in holding those responsible to account.”
Ramaphosa said that the unit would refer corruption to the government’s Anti-Corruption Task Team and follow up with departments to ensure criminal cases involving public servants translate into disciplinary cases.
The unit will monitor the conduct of lifestyle audits of public service employees, he said. “Where departments identify corruption and unexplained wealth, the cases will be referred to the South African Police Service.
“The new unit has already begun its work in earnest, helping to identify public servants involved in cases related to Covid-19 procurement, the special Covid-19 grant and Unemployment Insurance Fund fraud.”