1. Electricity eats up salaries:

Municipal tariffs are gobbling up an increasing portion of household income in South Africa, with especially electricity becoming almost unaffordable, says economist Mike Schüssler.

Electricity eats up salaries
Image taken by: Pok Rie

Of the amount Joburg inner-city tenants pay for their council bills, almost half is for electricity.

According to data from the Johannesburg Property Owners and Managers Association (JPOMA), its council bill represented 14.05% of tenants’ household expenses in 2009/10. Now it is almost 24%.

The biggest increase (224%) over this period was in electricity tariffs, while salaries increased by 91% and rent by only 80%.

JPOMA’s members together provide over 40 000 affordable housing units, accommodating about 200 000 tenants, according to information on its website.

The struggle to pay for electricity is however not limited to these households.

Using the tariffs approved by electricity regulator Nersa, Eric Bott, electricity expert from Energy Management Consulting, had a look at the total monthly electricity bill of different households in the metro councils and when buying directly from Eskom.

Schüssler compared this with BankservAfrica data on salary and pension payments into the bank accounts of South African consumers as a basis for his comments.

He says electricity costs amount to almost 13% of the average take-home salary in the formal sector.

In the informal sector income is lower and affordability is therefore an even bigger problem.

Bott says electricity tariffs are too complicated for the lay person to understand and this makes it difficult to check bills and make comparisons.

Apart from inclining block tariffs where the extent of the blocks is not standardised among different municipalities, some distributors apply seasonal tariffs.

Commentators have also in the past criticised the lack of transparency in the nature and extent of cross-subsidisation among different user groups in a single municipality.

Bott says tariffs could be lower if municipalities and Eskom operated more efficiently.

City Power in Johannesburg, for example, loses almost 30% of its electricity – mostly due to theft – and paying customers have to compensate for those losses by paying higher tariffs.

2. Mandatory vaccines on the cards:

As South Africa ramps up its Covid-19 vaccination efforts, more businesses are likely to require that both their employees and customers are vaccinated, says Business Leadership South Africa chief executive Busi Mavuso.

Writing in her weekly open letter, Mavuso said the government should consider introducing Covid-19 vaccine incentives and a digital pass to achieve a vaccination rate of 70%-80% of adults.

While public policy can drive some vaccine incentives, she said the private sector also has a part to play.

“Many employers have led the charge in supporting employees to access vaccines. Some employers can make vaccination mandatory where their employees are exposed to the public – like restaurants – or work in close contact with each other.”

Businesses also have the right to control access, she said.  “Just as they can insist employees who are exposed to the public are vaccinated, they can insist that customers who are exposed to their employees or each other are vaccinated.

“As the vaccine programme continues, I expect to see businesses becoming more strident in requiring vaccination both from their customers and employees.”

Mavuso said that she expects lots of ideological contestation around these measures.

In a media briefing on Friday (27 August), health minister Joe Phaahla said that his department is discussing the introduction of mandatory Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.

Phaahla said that this is a matter that has been raised for official consideration, with the health department now discussing the conditions under which mandatory vaccines may be possible.

He said that no official determination has yet been made. Phaahla said that in his personal view, it is unlikely that the government will introduce an official regulation, which states that everyone must vaccinate.

However, he said it is possible that certain jobs such as the services sector and the entertainment sector could require mandatory vaccines.

3. Vaccines for students may be mandatory:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he thinks it’s a “good idea” to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for kids attending school.

“This is not something new,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“We have mandates in many places in schools, particularly public schools, that if in fact you want a child to come in, we’ve done this for decades and decades requiring [vaccines for] polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis… So this would not be something new, requiring vaccinations for children to come to school,” Fauci said.

Covid-19 cases and infections have been rising, including among children, as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads.

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any Covid-19 vaccine for use in those under the age of 12. Pfizer’s vaccine recently received full FDA approval for use on those older than 16.

“I’ve got to be honest, I don’t see the approval for kids – 5 to 11 – coming much before the end of 2021,” Collins said.

Some parents have been so concerned about the spread of Delta that they are asking pediatricians to vaccinate their kids under 12 prior to FDA approval.

4. More students needed back to school:

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga wants more children back at school and is still considering adjusting social distancing requirements to achieve this.

The department wants to reduce the social distancing rule to just half a metre from the one-metre requirement currently in place.

This was part of the plan before the third wave of Covid-19 hit the country and may soon be back on the table – specifically for grades R to 3. However, for now, infection numbers are still too high for this policy to be adopted.

This comes despite a rejection by teacher unions of her proposal early this month.

5. Clamp down on looting instigators:

Law enforcement appears to be closing in on some of those responsible for orchestrating the unrest and looting that gripped KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July, with two more suspected instigators arrested on Saturday. Both were arrested for allegedly using social media platforms to incite public violence.

In a statement on Sunday, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) confirmed that a 35-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman had been arrested in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal respectively on charges of incitement to commit public violence. 

The suspect in KwaZulu-Natal was allegedly involved in the incitement of public violence using social media and other platforms during the July unrest in the province. 

“As a result, Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg was broken into and criminal activities, such as theft of goods, occurred. During the incident the mall was set alight by the suspects,” said Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale. 

The man is expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

The second suspect was arrested on Saturday during a search and seizure operation in Leondale, Gauteng, which resulted in the confiscation of items. The woman allegedly operated a popular Twitter account, Sphithiphithi Evaluator (@_AfricanSoil), with 63,175 followers.

The woman is expected to appear in the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court on Monday on charges of incitement to commit public violence. 

Following the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC), a non-profit organisation established to track and counter misinformation and disinformation and divisive rhetoric online, identified 12 Twitter accounts that were central to the unrest. 

The 12 accounts — four of which belong to the RET forces network — engaged with violence-inciting hashtags intended to incite an uprising and unrest, according to the CABC’s research.

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

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