News in South Africa 30th April:
1. Municipalities could soon collapse:
It’s almost clichéd to say SA’s municipalities are poorly run. Virtually every Ratings Afrika and Auditor-General survey reminds us of this.
You see it with your eyes as you venture home over potholed roads, passing the street litter that is left to accumulate until it’s washed away by rain or wind, and when you open your monthly rates and taxes bill and wonder what you are paying for.
There’s not much good news from the latest Ratings Afrika Municipal Financial Sustainability Index (MFSI) for the fiscal year to June 2020 which examines the 105 largest local municipalities plus eight metros in SA.
The survey authors conclude that government has a R51 billion municipal problem.
That’s what it will take to prevent a total collapse of municipalities and bring them on a level footing to pay their creditors as stipulated by the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA).
“Unfortunately, this R51 billion burden will have to be carried by the already overstressed taxpayers,” notes the survey.
2. Corruption in powership tender?:
The multibillion-rand tender for the supply of emergency power was rigged by top bureaucrats and associates of Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, a losing bidder has claimed in court papers.
According to him, they allegedly offered him a majority share of the 2000-megawatt programme first before most of it got awarded to the controversial Turkish-led Karpowership SA instead.
The explosive allegation was made in an affidavit deposed to by Aldworth Mbalati, the founder and chief executive of DNG Power Holdings, a company that had hoped to win a substantial part of the emergency procurement, officially known as the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP).
DNG filed urgent papers in the Pretoria high court this week to challenge the bid outcome. The company’s allegations are untested and are expected to be fiercely contested.
In his affidavit, Mbalati recounts being courted by “a businessman with close ties to [Mantashe]” last July, a month before the mineral resources and energy department (DMRE) published the bid. The businessman, whom he does not name, allegedly told Mbalati that the tender would soon be released – and that the outcome would be predetermined.
3. New lockdown measures:
The resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in India has prompted the South African government to consider introducing additional measures in order to stave off a third wave.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize told an online conference that a close eye was being kept on India, which has now the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the world. “The challenges we have seen in India are very serious,” Mkhize said.
“We have received an advisory from the ministerial advisory council that we have to consider some restrictions and we are now going through that,” he said, without giving details.
President Cyril Ramaphosa eased coronavirus restrictions in March as the rate of new infections dropped, scrapping most limits on alcohol sales, shortening a night-time curfew and permitting larger public gatherings.
On Thursday (29 April), South Africa reported 1,086 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,579,536.
Deaths have reached 54,331, while recoveries have climbed to 1,504,426, leaving the country with a balance of 20,779 active cases.
The number of Health Care Workers Vaccinated under the Sisonke Protocol to date is 307,591.
4. Cyril questioned on State Capture:
Controlling the optics is what President Cyril Ramaphosa does. And he does it graciously, even under the pressure of awkward and uncomfortable questions. He’s had plenty of practice, given the raucous opposition benches during the Q&As in the House.
For the ANC, the past two days’ testimony by its president was crucial to try to, if not undo, then at least soften the damage done by its failure to decisively act against State Capture.
And Ramaphosa did that.
Some of the softening came from him making concessions of ANC “lapses” and “delays” — note, not errors or miscalculations — all suitably qualified with phrases like, “in hindsight”. Some of it came from his acknowledging that things could have been done better, while insisting nothing was done maliciously, only slowly. And some of it came from him pledging to do better.
His appearance signalled voluntary compliance with law and structures like the State Capture Commission — in stark contrast to ex-president Jacob Zuma, who’s facing a possible jail term for contempt of the commission.
Acknowledging “total system failure” was the reasonable thing to do in the face of state-owned entities (SOEs) like Eskom and SAA being decimated by State Capture, facilitated by the appointment of politically selected executives.
“We acknowledge that some of these things did happen. Yes, things went horribly wrong, but we are here to correct that,” said Ramaphosa on Wednesday when the ANC’s deployment policy was under scrutiny.
5. Moderna ramping up production:
Moderna is anticipating a “significant need” for its Covid-19 vaccine through 2022 and 2023, leading the biotech firm to ramp up production efforts, the company said early Thursday.
Moderna is aiming to manufacture up to 3 billion doses in 2022, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company said in a statement, up from as many as 1 billion this year.
CEO Stéphane Bancel said the spread of variants will keep demand high for the shots.
“As we follow the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, we believe that there will continue to be significant need for our mRNA Covid-19 vaccine and our variant booster candidates into 2022 and 2023,” Bancel said in a statement.
While the shots have proven to be overwhelmingly protective and safe in clinical trials and in the real-world rollout, scientists are unsure how long protection will last. Bancel and Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, have both recently suggested that a booster shot would likely be needed within 12 months of getting vaccinated to maintain protection.
The exact number of vaccine doses Moderna will make next year hinges in part on the size of the doses. Moderna is currently testing whether booster shots can given at a lower dose.