News in South Africa 4th March:
1. Fake Covid-19 vaccines seized:
South African authorities have seized hundreds of fake Covid-19 vaccines following a global alert issued by Interpol, the international criminal police organisation.
Some 400 vials – equivalent to around 2,400 doses – containing the fake vaccine were found at a warehouse in Germiston, Gauteng, where officers also recovered a large quantity of fake 3M masks and arrested three Chinese nationals and a Zambian national, it said.
The arrests came just weeks after Interpol issued an orange notice warning law enforcement to prepare for organised crime networks targeting Covid-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
The alert also included details and images of genuine vaccines and authorized shipping methods provided by pharmaceutical companies to assist in the identification of fake vials.
“Whilst we welcome this result, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine related crime,” said Interpol secretary general, Jürgen Stock.
2. Government says unions are too late:
As public sector unions and the government continue discussions at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council regarding the next round of wage negotiations, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) says there are no more funds available that can be reprioritised to fund the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement.
“It’s too late. There is no money that can be reprioritised,” says DPSA Director-General Yoliswa Makhasi.
Implementation of the last year of the three-year wage deal was struck down by the Labour Appeal Court in December when it ruled that the deal is not binding because it had not been approved by the National Treasury. The court further ruled that implementing the deal would also set back the government’s plans to rein in public spending.
Last year, the government unilaterally decided to announce a freeze on public sector wage increases, in line with its bid to save R160 billion over the next three years.
The unions’ appeal for the courts to force the government to implement the final year of the 2018 wage deal contravenes sections 213 and 215 of the Constitution and sections 78 and 79 of the Public Services Act, the court ruled.
Four trade unions including the Public Servants Association of SA (PSA), the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have taken the matter to the Constitutional Court on appeal.
3. Investigations against Eskom CEO:
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has decided to investigate allegations lodged against Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.
The allegations were made by now suspended chief procurement officer Solly Tshitangano, who claims De Ruyter is favouring some contractors. Tshitangano was suspended over poor performance after failing to deliver savings in procurement expenditure of at least 4%.
Tshitangano claims that De Ruyter treats some suppliers such as ABB with “soft gloves”, but others are penalised.
4. Private companies could buy vaccines:
While government has admitted in court documents that there is no legal restrictions on private businesses sourcing Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa, experts say the problem lies with the manufacturers of said vaccines.
Medical aids have been in contact with vaccine manufacturers to try and source doses, but they are currently only doing business with governments – with large orders and millions of doses taking precedent over smaller amounts private groups are looking for.
“I think the crux of the matter is the only way you can get vaccines at the moment from the manufacturers, is by a government purchasing mechanism. Many of us in the industry have tried to engage them, but with some significant failure.” said Craig Comrie, CEO – Profmed
“They aren’t speaking to private industry. They’re looking at negotiating contracts for vaccines in the region of 10 million doses plus and that certainly doesn’t suit the private guys trying to get into the market.”
5. Standard Bank profits fall:
In a market update, Standard Bank has warned that its annual headline profit will be 40% to 50% lower than in 2019. Its results will be released next week.
Fellow financial services group Sasfin saw a 66% decline in its half-year headline profit due in part to credit impairment provisions. Only 80% of the loans it extended are up to date.