News in South Africa 3rd November:
1. We can learn from Europe 2nd wave:
South African scientists are concerned about how rapidly the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading in Europe, noticing similarities in the factors driving a second wave.
Several countries have gone into yet another lockdown to stop the spread of the virus like in Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, many of which have fewer coronavirus cases than South Africa at the moment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit crisis levels in parts of Europe again and South African experts like Karim are keeping a close eye on developments.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim said that there were three factors that were driving this second wave in European countries; complacency when it comes to preventative measures, “super-spreader” events and people letting their guard down during the holiday period.
He’s hoping South Africa will not reach the level of crisis that’s gripping Europe: “Partially because we are much better prepared now, we have the options of field hospitals. Our hospitals are much better organised now and we will be able to cope even with a surge.”
2. Fuel price lowered at midnight:
Prices for both grades of petrol in South Africa will this week reduce by 27 cents per litre, the department of mineral resources and energy has said.
The department on Monday published its latest fuel price adjustments from Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. The price adjustments will kick in from Wednesday morning.
The adjustments are as follows:
- Petrol (both 93 ULP and LRP): decrease 27 c/l
- Petrol (both 95 ULP and LRP): decrease 27c/l
- Diesel (0.05% sulphur): decrease 12c/l
- Diesel (0.005% sulphur): down 11 c/l
- Illuminating Paraffin (wholesale): increase 15c/l
- SMNRP for IP: increase 20c/l
- Maximum LPGas Retail Price: increase 26c/kg
Overnight, oil prices recovered somewhat after slumping to five-month lows amid concerns about renewed lockdowns in Europe and a contested US election.
3. TERS relief suspension:
The National Coronavirus Command Council has decided that the payments under the Covid-19 UIF Temporary Employer Employee Relief Scheme, or Ters, will not be extended beyond the September 15, 2020 cut-off point.
Business and unions have both expressed disappointment at government’s decision to suspend TERS UIF relief for those affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, especially as the country has not yet returned to normal operations, and people are still in dire need of support.
Business groups say they were caught by surprise by the decision, expecting the relief to be extended by three more months. Government has not given a direct explanation for why the support has been withdrawn.
Robert Leigh, the chair of the labour workstream at Business for South Africa said, “The importance of the whole scheme was that it was designed to ensure that employers didn’t close their businesses, or they didn’t permanently retrench employees. And, in the absence of the benefits, the logical step that employers should take probably, if they can’t afford to keep going, is to retrench employees. That’s undesirable, and it also triggers the liability for a further UIF benefit, which is actually a much higher benefit ultimately, in terms of rand, for the claims.”
“We think there are R51 billion in liquid assets; we think that it would cost R3-4 billion a month to extend this for another few months. That doesn’t mean that the fund will not be without stresses and strains, but we’re in a one-in-a-hundred-year crisis here. And these are workers’ funds. They’re not government funds. Government often forgets that it’s actually not its money. It’s workers’ money, and it’s funded by worker and employer contributions. The government needs to step in, and it needs to reverse this decision,” he further stated.
4. Aspen’s and AngloGold’s share price spike:
Aspen’s share price rocketed more than 11% yesterday following the news that it could manufacture as many as 300 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s proposed Covid vaccine.
Aspen Pharmacare has been boosted by new that it has agreed to make the Covid-19 vaccine candidate being developed by Johnson & Johnson at a factory in Port Elizabeth.
Africa’s biggest drugmaker has the capacity to produce 300 million doses a year at the plant in Port Elizabeth if the shot is approved, the company said in a statement on Monday.
South Africa is also a host country for clinical trials of various vaccines. Aspen also makes the generic anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone, which was found to be an effective treatment for Covid-19 earlier in the year – marking this as the second big boost the group has received from the pandemic.
AngloGold also surged by almost 11% yesterday following a solid set of quarterly results and its promise to double its dividend.
AngloGold Ashanti will double its dividend payout ratio after gold prices surged this year and the company’s borrowings fell to the lowest in nearly a decade.
AngloGold will now return 20% of free-cash flow before growth capital to shareholders, up from 10%, the world’s third-largest gold producer said in a statement on Monday. The payout frequency has also been doubled to twice a year.
“Doubling our dividend payout ratio demonstrates confidence in our ability to both improve direct returns to shareholders and to self-fund our growth projects and sustaining capital requirements,” interim CEO Christine Ramon said in a statement.
5. SAA damning evidence revealed:
State Capture Commission of Inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday had to repeatedly plead with Yakhe Kwinana to directly answer the questions put to her by advocate Kate Hofmeyr on alleged malfeasance at SAA, as the former SAA board member and SAA Technical (SAAT) chairperson dodged and deflected even simple inquiries.
Kwinana refused to answer questions directly, but as she sought to avoid implicating herself in corruption allegations she made shocking revelations about how she and the boards she served on disregarded procurement policies as they intervened in various deals.
Kwinana served on SAA’s board between 2009 and 2016 and was allegedly central to various cases of corruption at the airline and its subsidiary SAAT. She couldn’t recall when she was appointed SAAT chair, maybe in 2014 or 2015, she said.
After repeated pleading from Zondo some damning information about the shocking operations at SAA was gleaned from Kwinana.
The revelations include the board attending operational meetings and negotiating contracts it had never seen – while Kwinana stands accused of strong-arming companies to siphon 30% of their revenues for BEE companies.