News in South Africa 28th September:
1. Move to lockdown level 1 in sight:
Health experts expect South Africa to move to lockdown level 1 by the end of the week.
When South Africa was placed under lockdown level 2, president Cyril Ramaphosa said the government would review the situation in 2 weeks. However, he missed this deadline – 26 September – with Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extending the date to 3 October.
Analysts at PwC said the most likely start for level 1 would be the beginning of October, while medical experts at the University of KwaZulu Natal say that the country can start easing restrictions from an epidemiological point of view as soon as possible.
Mandy Wiener on the Midday Report, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) acting deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation professor Mosa Moshabela says he expects that by the end of the week the country will move to level 1.
The principle has always been that the country shouldn’t have unnecessary restrictions, he adds.
2. Johnson & Johnson booster shots:
The South African government says it is exploring introducing Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 booster shots.
Last week, the company’s data showed that its vaccine is more effective when supplied in two doses.
An additional shot administered 56 days after the first provided 75% protection against symptomatic coronavirus in a global clinical trial, with the figure increasing to 94% in the US.
Even when received after six months from the first jab, protection appears to be heightened.
Western Cape Department of Health’s Dr Saadiq Kariem said: “At the moment we are waiting for SAHPRA colleagues and the national health department to make a ruling on the booster shot, they are considering this.”
Kariem said once this recommendation was made, the jabs would be implemented if an agreement would be reached on the matter.
He said healthcare workers had already been requesting J&J booster shots after the latest data showed a higher level of immunity.
“A lot of health workers are hoping this will be implemented. Some of the literature emerging from overseas show that booster shots are effective and boost immunity. But we have to wait for the National Department of Health to make a ruling on this,” he said.
3. Mismanaged funds for struggling artists:
A forensic investigation has revealed that three former and two current members of the National Arts Council (NAC) have been found guilty of ‘committing’ around R630 million in funds as part of Covid-19 financial support for artists, despite the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (Pesp) only allocating a budget of R300 million for the initiative.
This was confirmed on Monday during a media briefing by Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.
Mthethwa now wants answers from the five unidentified NAC members implicated in the mismanagement of the funds that were earmarked to assist artists and boost the creative economy.
The investigation was launched in July after the creative sector reported multiple claims of mismanagement of the Pesp fund.
The minister noted that the forensic report presented to him last week by the NAC had identified a myriad of challenges which included:
- Applicants being approved and contracted for more funding than they applied for;
- More than 55% of approved beneficiaries not being allocated funding; and
- The NAC approving more beneficiaries than budgeted for.
Furthermore, South Africa’s film and video industry has been devasted by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns. Relief measures offered by government have been inadequate to stave off major job losses.
South Africa’s film industry contributed – both directly and indirectly – R7.2 billion to the country’s economy in 2019. This contribution dropped to just R2.9 billion over the past year due to the global pandemic, according to a report by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), a subsidiary of the department of sport, arts, and culture.
Prior to the pandemic, approximately 31,444 full-time equivalent jobs were sustained by the film industry. This dropped by around 60% over the past year to just 12,775 jobs sustained in 2020/21, according to the NFVF’s latest Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) study, released on Thursday.
4. Increase in business insolvencies:
Statistics South Africa has published its latest report on liquidations and insolvencies, with the data showing a significant increase in business insolvencies over a period marred by looting and more onerous lockdown restrictions.
South African courts impose insolvency on businesses that cannot pay their debts or whose liabilities exceed their assets.
The data shows that the estimated number of insolvencies increased by 129.7% in the three months ended July 2021 compared with the three months ended July 2020. There was a year-on-year increase of 157.7% in insolvencies in July 2021.
By comparison, seasonally adjusted insolvencies decreased by 15.8% in July 2021 compared with June 2021. This followed month-on-month changes of 389.7% in June 2021 and 26.1% in May 2021.
The data shows that the total number of liquidations decreased by 16.8% in the three months ended August 2021 compared with the three months ended August 2020.
A year-on-year decrease of 27.6% was recorded in August 2021. Voluntary liquidations decreased by 60 cases, and compulsory liquidations decreased by the cases.
However, the total number of liquidations increased by 12.1% in the first eight months of 2021 compared with the first eight months of 2020.
5. ANC with more hollow promises:
The ANC has launched its election manifesto, filled with familiar promises and plans to change – including tackling South Africa’s job crisis head-on and clamp down on corruption and reform the party.
However, Rand Water announced water cuts across Gauteng’s significant cities just hours ahead of the ANC manifesto launch on Monday.
This province is where the party is likely to face a tough battle in the 1 November poll, for which 26.2 million South Africans have registered to vote.
Rand Water blamed it on an Eskom power station meltdown, and Eskom counter-blames these enduring power and water cuts on cable theft or illegal connections. Either way, it showed how local government has failed from rural town to metro, from district to municipality and across all provinces the ANC governs – eight of nine.
The top concerns for South Africans, are water (supply, contamination, cuts and costs) and electricity (availability, power cuts in addition to load shedding, the cost of electricity), sewage (draining into the freshwater supply, sewage treatment), dumping and dirty streets.
Road conditions and potholes are the next extensive set of issues followed by other common failures like crime and safety, street lights and general bureaucratic inertia.
In the face of this, the ANC manifesto and strategy tell South Africans it is “failing forward” – the concept that accepts setbacks as a necessary part of the human condition as long as you learn from your errors and continue to progress.
Analysts say that empty words and lofty promises are unlikely to assuage the anger felt by communities who have had to suffer through a lack of basic service delivery and record high unemployment over the years – and president Cyril Ramaphosa’s charm may be wearing thin.