News in South Africa 2nd November:

1. Nelson Mandela Bay Lockdown:

From 700 active coronavirus cases on 23 October, the Nelson Mandela Bay metro surpassed 2,000 active cases on Sunday 1 November as health officials claim that there was mass non-compliance with lockdown regulations in the city.

Nelson Mandela Bay Lockdown
“Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2” by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Hospital admissions in the province also increased sharply.

According to numbers released by Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize on Friday the province had 3,836 active cases and accounted for 35 out of the 46 newly confirmed deaths caused by Covid-19.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the new cases could not be linked to a single event.

“The increase… is predominantly due to general non-compliance with precautions. People are not adhering to curfews. In general, there is just a total disregard of all regulations,” he said.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, admissions related to Covid-19 in Eastern Cape hospitals increased from 445 on Tuesday 27 October to 468 on Friday 30 October. The number of patients in intensive care units increased from 60 to 63, those on ventilators from 26 to 40, with the number of patients needing oxygen jumping from 129 to 158. On Monday the province had 20 admissions a day and by Friday 31 admissions.

“A harder lockdown is not ideal, but to save lives the option might need to be explored again as the numbers are increasing rapidly. In just one day this week, we had close to 400 new infections. Unfortunately, the infections go with deaths and we have seen the deaths in the country have surpassed the 19,000 mark,” acting executive mayor Thsonono Buyeye said.

“We would like to warn our residents that should the numbers continue to rise, President Cyril Ramaphosa will have no choice but to enforce stricter measures. The last thing we need is to lose control of the virus.” said, The chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Disaster Management Forum, Shane Brown.

2. TERS halting criticised:

Business for South Africa has criticised a reported decision by the National Coronavirus Command Council against extending the Covid Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).

The body, which represents business interests, says its investigations found that there is still R51 billion available in the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and that it could maintain benefits until the end of December.

3. Eskom defends clamp down on non payers:

Eskom is defending its ‘foreclose’ on municipalities that owe it billions in overdue debt.

Over the past few months, the struggling power provider has not been afraid to show its ruthless streak in clawing back the R31.5 billion owed to it as at the end of August by some municipalities and has thought nothing about taking control of bank accounts and seizing assets.

The issue of rising municipal debt is one of growing distress for the state-owned power utility. It has seen this figure grow from R6 billion as at March 31, 2016, to R28 billion as at March 31 this year.

The Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality, which had its bank account attached in July 2020 and owes over R5 billion, has accused Eskom of negotiating in bad faith as it had reneged on agreements reached in an inter-governmental committee meant to sort out the issue.

The matter between Eskom and the likes of Maluti-a-Phofung are now being played out in the courts, but it and the other defaulting municipalities should not have been surprised by the power company’s hard stance.

But the picture Eskom is sketching of the defaulting municipalities is not the whole picture, with some saying they are doing their bit despite tremendous difficulty.

“We are paying Eskom – it’s just we are unable to pay the billed full amount due to non-payment of services by the community because of the high unemployment rate,” insists Emalahleni city manager HS Mayisela.

The issue around the monies owed to Eskom is not actually an Eskom problem, but rather a municipal revenue collection problem.

4. Comair merges with new venture:

The Competition Tribunal has given the operator of and British Airways in South Africa the green light to merge with the new venture of its former board members and executives, SA Bidco, on condition that the two companies preserve jobs in the airline for the next three years.

The Tribunal held a virtual hearing on the proposed merger between Comair and SA Bidco on Friday afternoon after the Competition Commission conditionally approved the deal on Tuesday. Comair’s business rescue practitioners had also approved the merger, as it would enable Comair to resume operations and resolve its current financial situation.

Comair went into business rescue on 5 May 2020. But the business rescue practitioners said the airline could begin flying again in December if their proposed business rescue plan, which envisaged that the preferred investment consortium, comprising several former Comair board members and executives, called the Comair Rescue Consortium, would inject fresh equity into the company.

On Friday, the Tribunal said SA Bidco, which is a newly established company created for the purpose of the merger, had got its approval to continue with the transaction subject to certain employment and a B-BBEE ownership conditions of the merged entity.

5. Steenhuisen elected as leader of DA:

The DA has elected John Steenhuisen as its leader – winning his battle against Mbali Ntuli for the party’s top position with an 80% share of the vote.

Steenhuisen said that the party will never turn its back on its core principles, and ensured that it was not just a party for white people.

The DA’s virtual conference was attended by 2,000 delegates who cast their vote. Steenhuisen has been acting as leader since former head, Mmusi Maimane resigned and quit the party in October 2019.

The newly-elected leadership will lead the party into the local government elections next year.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Business Insider, Daily Maverick, Moneyweb, Fin24, and ENCA.

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