News in South Africa 4th June:

1. Vaccine rollout hits 1mil mark:

South Africa’s vaccine rollout has passed an important milestone by reaching more than one million people at the start of June. As the daily number of doses administered picked up – after a dismally low levels between February and May – the health department has released its first provincial breakdown of cumulative jabs.

Vaccine rollout hits 1mil mark
Image taken by: Anna Tarazevich

By Wednesday 2 June, a total of 1,117,569 Covid-19 vaccine doses had been administered as part of South Africa’s phased rollout which aims to attain herd immunity (by inoculating 67% of the population) by May 2022. To vaccinate 40 million people within this time frame, South Africa’s public and private healthcare facilities will need to average a daily tally of 120,000 doses.

Although South Africa has tripled its number of daily doses administered since the first week of Phase 2 of the rollout began on 17 May, the current average of 10,644 jabs a day is still far off the mark.

A total of 479,768 healthcare workers were the first to receive their Covid-19 vaccines as part of the Sisonke Programme, which was implemented as a real-world trial to fast-track the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jabs.

In total, 1.9% of South Africa’s population has received at least one vaccine dose since the rollout began.

2. Action will be taken over Digital Vibes:

President Cyril Ramaphosa insists that the Digital Vibes/Mkhize scandal will not get swept under the rug, and that decisive action will be taken – but he says he wants to the investigation to proceed and any decisions to be based on that outcome.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says he’s not outsourcing political morality to law enforcement agencies by not taking swift action against health minister Zweli Mkhize.

This as the minister is being investigated by the SIU over tender corruption allegations.

Ramaphosa was responding to questions in Cape Town from members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association.

The president has been harshly criticised for not suspending Mkhize after revelations that Digital Vibes, a company owned by his close associates, scored a R150m communications tender from his department — which he signed off on.

Ramaphosa said he believed in the matter being fully investigated before taking action.

“A number of things keep coming up and I would like the investigation to proceed … I’ve tended to be careful doing these things,” said Ramaphosa.

Meanwhile, minister Zweli Mkhize is preparing to resign from his position over the scandal.

3. No corruption in powerships:

South African Mineral and Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and the two most senior officials in his department denied corruption in court papers responding to allegations by a losing bidder in a power tender.

Director-General Thabo Mokoena confirmed that he and his deputy met Aldworth Mbalati, executive director of DNG Energy Ltd., at Kream Restaurant in Pretoria in November, but denied they tried to secure a bribe. Mantashe denied allegations by Mbalati that a business associate and a relative of the minister tried to interfere in the process of awarding contracts.

Mbalati, whose company unsuccessfully bid to build three gas-fired power plants in a tender for emergency power, said in the case he filed that two unidentified state officials, and the two alleged associates of Mantashe, met with him at Kream. He said one of the government officials told him he “must be part of the system” to win a contract.

Mokoena said he made the point at the meeting that the department and the Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme Office were running “a transparent and fair process,” according to an affidavit filed at the Pretoria High Court. “I added that if the entity Mr. Mbalati represented wished to succeed in the process, it would need to comply with all of the tender requirements,” he said.

4. Vaccine side effects investigated:

The results of the Sisonke study have been published – tracking the vaccination of healthcare workers in South Africa and the various side effects they experienced as a result of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

According to the results, most of the 290,000 subjects of the study experienced mild to moderate side effects, which were the expected effects of taking a vaccine.

Fifty people experienced serious side-effects, such as allergic reactions or other complications from already having the virus or tuberculosis. Medical professionals recommend that those who are prone to allergic reactions make their doctor aware of this before receiving a jab.

5. Economy slowly recovering:

South Africa’s economic recovery is surprising on the upside with S&P affirming South Africa’s sovereign rating of BB-, or three notches below the investment grade, keeping a stable outlook.

In a presentation during a live webinar, S&P said the 2021 economy performance had been boosted by a “cyclical uplift” driven by higher global commodity prices as well as base effects after the downturn due to last year’s Covid-19 outbreak.

South Africa’s treasury in the February budget estimated a fiscal, or budget, deficit of 14% in the 2020/21 financial year, and pencilled in a 9.3% shortfall for the 2021/22 fiscal year. Debt, as a portion of gross domestic product, was seen at 81.9% and 85.1% respectively.

S&P trimmed its own forecasts, seeing the budget deficit at 11.2% in the fiscal year ended in March and at only -8.9% in 2021/22. It sees debt-to-GDP at 80.9% in 2021.

The upswing in global commodity prices in late 2020 and into 2021 saw South Africa – the world’s largest exporter of platinum metal groups and other commodities like copper, coal and gold – record massive trade surpluses, boosting tax revenues.

The ratings firm sees economic growth at 3.6% in 2021, but warned this might be undermined by the slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

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

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