News in South Africa 29th September:

1. Political gains over pandemic:

Ministerial Advisory Committee insiders have expressed disappointment at the recent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, saying that politics is now taking centre stage and is the main driving force behind how the regulations are being handled.

Political gains over pandemic
Image taken by: Markus Spiske

Laws have been introduced under the Disaster Management Act to reduce the blow of the pandemic but are not being enforced as political leaders pander to voters.

They say that the declaration of the end of the third wave was also premature and that the expected move to lockdown level 1 in the coming weeks is also being used as a political tool.

In South Africa, there have been 1,367 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,898,888. Deaths have reached 87,417 (+201), while recoveries have climbed to 2,765,700, leaving the country with a balance of 45,771 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 17,176,603 (+176,881).

2. R1b in relief for looting victims:

Two key development finance agencies under the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) have already approved 77 applications amounting to over R1 billion in financial relief for businesses affected by the unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng in July, dtic minister Ebrahim Patel confirmed on Tuesday.

The funds, approved collectively through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), are part of the dtic’s broader R3.75 billion relief package for businesses announced by the minister following the unrest.

“First approvals were made in August and have been steadily growing, reaching the R1 billion milestone on Monday,” Patel said in a statement.

“The unrest in July 2021 damaged growth, jobs and transformation and affected investor confidence in the domestic economy. To mitigate the damage caused, the dtic and its entities launched a special fund to support companies,” he noted.

“These funding approvals help to inject liquidity into businesses, provide bridging finance where insurance claims are still being assessed and enable firms to commence full trading”

“We have seen many small businesses rebuilding their operations and small and larger firms have provided essential goods to affected communities,” Patel added.

3. R4 trillion climate change plan:

South Africa has promised the world to dump a lot less carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gasses, into the atmosphere, on the assumption that richer countries will make good on commitments to provide the money for climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

SA lodged an update on its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement with the United Nations on Monday, a submission that “updates and enhances” commitments from 2016 – and now “reflects our highest possible level of ambition, based on science and equity, in light of our national circumstances”.

The targets are dramatically different from those SA set five years ago. For 2025, annual greenhouse gas emissions are set at 398 to 510 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, and for 2030 those numbers drop to 350 to 420 metric tons. That covers all South African industry and activity but not unpredictable wildfires, which can add another 5 to 30 metric tonnes to the total.

That will see South Africa move to declining emissions a full decade earlier than previously anticipated, in 2025 rather than in 2035, with the new target for 2030 set 32% lower than previously.

The submission shows that South Africa will be looking for a somewhat more than $271 billion – the equivalent of over R4 trillion – to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in various forms of financing, including domestic loans for green projects. That total is made up of:

  • $13 million “to build evidence-based support for policy implementation”, including provincial and municipal forums.
  • $8 million to develop tools and strategies around climate-change planning, such as long-term adaptation scenarios.
  • $3 billion to $4 billion to implement the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS), which includes building flood protection, setting up early-warning systems for small farmers, and getting cities ready for trouble.
  • $16 billion to $267 billion for “climate change adaptation investment pipeline projects” that are not formally further defined, but covers a wide array of renewable generation and energy efficiency projects.

4. Numsa indefinite strike:

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA, angered by the wage offer of metal employers, is planning an indefinite strike beginning next Tuesday.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) plans to hit the streets in all nine provinces on Tuesday, 5 October, after wage talks deadlocked with steel and engineering industry employers, with the firebrand leader of the Cosatu breakaway, Irvin Jim, promising that workers would stay at the lines for as long as it took employers to budge on an 8% salary bump. 

Numsa wants a salary increase of 8% for one year (2021) and an adjustment of consumer inflation plus 2% for the following two years. This works out to salary increases of just over 6%, as the SA Reserve Bank expects inflation to average 4.2% and 4.5% in 2022 and 2023  respectively. 

Numsa said that if the CPI+ equation falls below 6%, employers must offer 6% or reopen negotiations. 

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of SA (Seifsa), with which metal unions have been negotiating, has offered a three-year agreement of a 4.4% increase for 2021, and inflation plus 0.5% for 2022, and CPI + 1% for the third year.  

At a press conference on Tuesday, Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim said the counter-offer was a “middle finger” to workers after they had agreed on a wage standstill for 2020.  

“Employers have shown us a middle finger. They are not presenting any offer. This is despite the fact that when we look into their balance sheets in different companies they have made profits,” Jim told the press conference.  

“Workers will be in the picket line in terms of this strike because we have never seen workers striking from home. We will observe protocol and social distancing.”

5. Further E-toll delays:

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has provided an update on the future of Gauteng’s controversial e-toll system, warning that motorists should expect further delays as the government mulls its options for funding.

Answering in a written parliamentary Q&A, Mbalula said that his department has tabled various funding options around the Electronic Toll on Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) for a cabinet decision.

However, after consideration of the options, the cabinet directed that both the Department of Transport and National Treasury should jointly re-look at the options and resubmit their proposals for consideration.

“It is important to note that the department is committed to finding a workable solution that does not ‘drown the country in debt’ but is equally sensitive to the public’s issues and once it is clear on the sustainable model, a submission will then be made for cabinet’s final decision,” he said.

Mbalula added that a date for announcement on the future of e-tolls cannot be determined at this stage, as the discussions around funding for the system continue to take place, focusing on the various financial options available.

“The process to pronounce on the future of the e-toll take time, as the two Transport and Finance minister had to first meet, and in their meeting they agreed that further studies be conducted to inform the decision to be made.”

All information sourced from articles posted by: News24, Moneyweb, BusinessTech, Business Insider, and Daily Maverick.

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