News in South Africa 31st May:
1. Back to Lockdown level 2:
President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved South Africa back to Lockdown level 2.
The President made the announcement on Sunday after discussions with cabinet.
Under the Level 2 restrictions:
- It remains mandatory for every person to wear a face mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times when in public spaces. It is a criminal offence not to do so.
- The hours of curfew will start at 11pm and end at 4am.
- Non-essential establishments like restaurants, bars and fitness centres will need to close by 10pm.
- All gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors. Where the venue is too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the venue may be used.
- Funerals remain restricted to no more than 100 people, and, as before, night vigils, after- funeral gatherings and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are not allowed.
- This includes religious services, political events and social gatherings, as well as restaurants, bars, taverns and similar places.
“While the country is headed towards a third wave of infections, we do not yet know how severe this wave will be or for how long it will last,” the President said.
However, alcohol sales remain open.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced some limitations for gatherings and tightened the curfew, but no announcement was made on alcohol restrictions.
The National Liquor Traders Council says the industry has gone the extra mile to ensure compliance.
It is calling on liquor outlets and the public to remain vigilant and adhere to COVID-19 safety measures.
“We always know that there are rotten apples that seek to not abide by COVID-19 protocols. But it’s our responsibility to report such an establishment,” said the council’s Lucky Ntimane.
2. Workplace vaccination possible:
Business, labour and the government have reached agreement at Nedlac on workplace Covid vaccine guidelines that will ensure workers are encouraged to be vaccinated, and are given paid time off to do so, but cannot be dismissed for declining the jab.
This comes as the vaccine rollout picks up pace at public and private sector sites, with the daily total reaching 60,000 on Thursday – though supply constraints are expected to slow the pace temporarily next week. Business for SA (B4SA) said on Friday that about 110 private and 210 public sites planned to be online this week.
Following the agreement, employers said they were waiting for clarity from the health department about a model to compensate private sector providers for the inoculation costs.
Government has set a target of vaccinating an estimated 5.5 million South Africans aged 60 and above under phase two – and so far, the health department reported that as of Saturday 484,108 people of this age group have been inoculated.
This agreement will add another 16.5 million citizens to the vaccine roster with the goal of inoculating them in six months.
Some of the country’s largest employers were looking to ramp up the numbers by opening an initial 89 workplace sites that could vaccinate 24,300 people in a day.
The publication reports that employers have said that they want to vaccinate workers and their families, as well as surrounding communities, but they were waiting on the department to clarify how the private sector will be reimbursed for vaccinating people without medical aid.
3. Irregular spending on PPE:
A confidential South African Police Service (SAPS) risk-based and compliance draft internal audit report has unearthed a massive R1.6-billion in irregular personal protective equipment (PPE) procurements by the SAPS that took place in just six months of 2020.
The amount includes R11-million paid out on a verbal order in May 2020 to a “non-profit” company, Dr Love Foundation, “who could not be traced on Treasury’s Database of Small Business Development”, the audit noted.
The tender for cloth masks and sachets of hand sanitiser was awarded after “the supplier wrote a correspondence to SAPS stating that his foundation intends to offer services and assistance to SAPS in the current fight against the pandemic”.
The 27-page “Draft Audit Report, Division Supply Management 2020/21, File Reference C23/3/21”, dated September 2020, covered transactions from March 2020 to August 2020 and which did not form part of the Auditor-General’s sample.
The delegation of authority within the SAPS does not provide for verbal authorisation on transactions of more than R500,000. Despite that, “Thirty four (34) orders to the value of R1,620,964,361.20 were issued on the basis of a verbal authorisation, and without obtaining sufficient number of quotations,” reported Major-General DT Nkosi, SAPS chief audit executive.
The audit was performed in accordance with the SAPS Internal Audit Plan for the year ending 31 March 2021 and as approved by the audit committee.
The review found that “current key controls in respect of Covid-19 procurement of PPE were not effective”.
- Matters requiring “urgent” attention were the 34 orders, which included five to the value of R86,302,500 and issued to suppliers who were not tax-compliant.
- Two suppliers for orders totalling R15,000,000 for cloth masks, the report found, were not on the database for Small Business Development, contrary to Treasury regulations.
- Suppliers too, the report found, had overcharged the department on VAT and transport, resulting in a financial loss of R5,200,000.
- “There was a material deviation from the price list approved by National Treasury as some of the suppliers charged the department more than the ceiling price.” This had resulted in a “material loss” of R354,698,420.
4. More vaccines arrived:
President Cyril Ramaphosa said that another consignment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses had arrived in the country. The race is on to ramp up vaccinations dramatically.
We are back at level two of the lockdown. This will see the night curfew extended from 11pm to 4am, among other changes, but the vaccination drive needs to be stepped up dramatically.
On Sunday night, President Ramaphosa said that more batches of vaccines had arrived.
“The next 636,000 doses arrive tonight with weekly deliveries of equivalent volume until the end of June, when we will receive 2.5 million doses,” the president said.
Ramaphosa said that by the end of the week over a million South Africans would have been vaccinated.
More than 67 per cent of public health workers have been vaccinated. Over 3 million people registered on the Electronic Vaccine Data System.
There are four ways that you can register to receive your COVID-19 vaccine:
- By using the online registration platform available on the SA Coronavirus website
- By dialling *134*832# and registering via USSD
- By sending the word “register” via WhatsApp to 0600 123 456
- By calling the national toll-free call centre on 0800 029 999 for assistance
5. Denel short on salaries:
Armoured-car and artillery manufacturer Denel Land Systems says honouring its wage bill in the next few months will be difficult as its cash woes continue.
In a memo on Friday to staff, CEO Mxolisi Makhatini said the embattled defence contractor’s employees would get a net payout of just 20% of their salaries for May, along with medical aid cover and the risk portion of the pension contributions.
Denel Land Systems is one of Denel SOC’s largest divisions, manufacturing land-based weapons systems such as armoured vehicles and heavy artillery.
Makhatini said operational requirements, payments to suppliers, statutory payment obligations and “our actual cash in the bank” had determined how much the company could pay its workers this month.
The situation was also unlikely to improve in the short term.
“As the company’s liquidity status worsen, the payment of salaries for the upcoming months will continue to be a challenge to honour,” he said.
Makhatini said management would continue discussions with employees on possible actions to free up cash in the months ahead.
Denel spokesperson Pam Malinga said staff had been earning only a percentage of their salaries for the past year.
“We are trying to find solutions to this liquidity problem,” she said.
She noted that staff from different divisions within the Denel group could be paid different percentages depending on each division’s revenue for that month.