News in South Africa 30th March:
1. Easter infection risks and restrictions:
While South Africans are gearing up for tighter lockdown restrictions this coming Easter, 50 of 52 districts in the country are not yet showing any signs of increased rates of infection. Two outliers, in Gauteng and Limpopo, have shown slight increases in infections over the last few days.
However, the concern from health experts is that this will change, rapidly, if people flock to religious gatherings over the weekend. Tighter lockdown would be a precautionary move.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is due to meet with premiers on Tuesday, with a decision around the restrictions during the Easter festivities expected to be finalised by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Alcohol restrictions covering the Easter weekend, running from 1 to 6 April, remain a real possibility.
The suggestion that church gatherings be extended has been opposed and it is expected that there may be a limit of church gatherings.
A possible stricter curfew is on the cards.
2. 30 million vaccines to be produced:
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa will produce 30 million Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for use in the country.
In a media briefing on Monday (29 March), the president said that the vaccines will be manufactured by Aspen Pharmacare at its factory in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape with production already underway.
Ramaphosa also acknowledged that the country had fallen behind on the plans for its original rollout after it scrapped plans to use the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines.
He said that the country was originally targeting the vaccination of 40 million people before the end of the year. While Ramaphosa said that the decision not to use the vaccines was a blow, he said that the country was still on track with its rollout.
“From here on we are going to catch up on lost time, momentum is going to pick up, and we should be able to meet the targets we have spoken about. This is the beginning of a new era and phase of the rollout of the vaccines and the saving of our people.”
Ramaphosa said that the slow pace of the country’s rollout can be attributed to the lack of availability of vaccines globally, a problem that is not unique to South Africa.
3. Land expropriation clarity:
Greater certainty on the content of the imminent change to the wording of Section 25 of the Constitution to give explicit meaning to the state’s power to expropriate property without compensation has emerged after a week of often heated debate and input in parliament.
At this stage it seems that the constitutional change will be limited in length, with the detail to be trodden out in the Expropriation Bill, which has just started its journey through parliament to the statute book.
At issue after this week’s inputs before the parliamentary ad hoc committee to amend Section 25 (the property clause) are mainly who will decide the amount to be paid in compensation (including a nil amount), whether anyone will be exempted from expropriation without compensation, how to balance the need for a thriving economy with the need for historical redress, and whether the state has the capacity to manage land reform successfully and sustainably.
On setting the amount to be paid some ANC MPs, including co-chair of Constitutional Review Committee Party Dr Mathole Motshekga, have floated the idea of the state both deciding the amount to be paid for expropriating land and paying it, in the belief that involving the courts would delay redress and that the people have elected the government democratically in a way the courts were not, so the government must decide.
The implications of such a decision for the doctrine of the separation of powers were repeatedly raised, but the concept keeps resurfacing from some ANC MPs.
4. ANC members must step down:
ANC leaders and members charged with corruption and wrongdoing, including secretary-general Ace Magashule, have 30 days to voluntarily step aside or be suspended, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced late on Monday evening.
In a win for those in the party who are aligned to Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption agenda, the party’s highest decision making body between congresses had resolved that the “step-aside rule” must be implemented in line with the guidelines and procedures adopted at its last meeting in February.
“All members who have been charged with corruption or other serious crimes must step aside within 30 days, failing which they should be suspended in terms of rule 25.7 of the ANC constitution,” Ramaphosa said in an address after a late night session of the national executive committee (NEC).
“The meeting emphasised that the 30 day period will be used to enable the implementation of the decision in line with the guidelines. This is not a review of the decision.”
This means Magashule, who is facing corruption charge, will have to step aside by the end of April.
5. Offshore investment spike:
Last week, international investors were net buyers of SA shares and bonds, new JSE data shows.
Offshore investors bought a net of 420 million rand ($28 million) of South African stocks last week and 1.05 billion rand in bonds, data showed on Monday.