News in South Africa 4th May:
1. Warning over infection spikes:
The Gauteng Health Department has issued a warning over a spike in Covid-19 infections in the province, highlighting cluster outbreaks in Vereeniging, parts of Tshwane, and parts of Johannesburg.
Health authorities are urging people to continue obeying lockdown rules. This over fears of a third wave of COVID-19 infections in Gauteng.
New cases have been increasing significantly since last week.
Data modelling by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases says Gauteng will be the hardest-hit province, and a third wave would be more devastating than the second.
2. Avian Flu worsening:
A second farm on the East Rand near Johannesburg has seen an outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu).
The SA Poultry Association (SAPA) announced in a statement that an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has hit a broiler breeder farm in the area.
The farm is under quarantine and the birds are being culled, the association said. Recently an East Rand egg farm had to cull 240 000 hens, while a broiler breeder farm in the North West destroyed 7 000 birds following bird flu outbreaks.
Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho have imposed bans on the imports of poultry products from the affected areas in South Africa in reaction to the outbreaks.
Given that the latest outbreak is in the same area (“compartment”) as the first, SAPA doesn’t believe that the latest development will “materially affect the current trade restrictions already in place from our neighbouring countries”.
“We send eggs to Mozambique almost on a daily basis, so there’s going to be a shortage of eggs in Mozambique for sure, very soon,” said Colin Steenhuisen, interim general manager for the South African Poultry Association’s egg board.
About 70% of South Africa’s egg exports go to Mozambique – last year, the country imported 10,608 tonnes of eggs and 12,845 tonnes of broilers from South Africa, Steenhuisen added.
3. Is Sanral hiding something?:
Outa chief executive Wayne Duvenage is questioning what roads agency Sanral has to hide – accusing the group of ‘fobbing off’ requests from the public for more information into the e-tolling contracts with private companies.
What is it about many government entities and departments which arrogantly believe that public information is theirs and theirs alone, despite the fact that their revenues come from the public purse, especially in relation to user-pays revenue streams? In many instances, this information is so clearly relevant and obviously of public interest, that it ought to be regularly updated and available on their websites.
Here we’re talking about information such as: Eskom’s daily energy generation data by power plant (including coal volumes purchased and burn rates); road tolling revenues (including annual profits accruing to toll route concessionaires); the number of low-income houses constructed by each region and the costs thereof per contracting company… the list goes on. Such transparency is very important to civil action NGOs which conduct assessments of these areas of state expenditure and performance, thereby ensuring the public is receiving the best results from their tax money.
The tussle for information sought by a civil action organisation, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), from Sanral bears testament to the frustrations endured when it comes to a gross lack of transparency. Heaven knows what kind of run-around is endured by ordinary individuals, if this is how state-owned entities (SOEs) deal with organised civil society.
Outa’s research suggests that something is amiss, especially when concession route toll tariffs have increased year on year at a rate of CPI or more, along with traffic volumes, due to rail usage falling into a state of disrepair and mismanagement. It is very reasonable to speculate that the toll revenues anticipated at the outset of the concessionaire contracts might be well above initial projections, and for all we know these private concessionaires could be earning excessive profits, well beyond what they are entitled to.
4. Shortage of trucks:
There is a shortage of new trucks in South Africa, and the shortage looks like it will be around for a while.
Truck sales could fall 4% short of potential this year because motor companies don’t have enough stock to meet demand, Hino Trucks marketing and planning head Leslie Long said on Monday.
He said manufacturers were not prepared for unexpectedly strong demand at the end of 2020 and shortages are likely to continue for much of 2021.
5. Post Office battles couriers:
The South African Post Office is heading to court to block courier companies from delivering packages weighing 1kg and less.
In a ruling handed down in late 2019, communications regulator Icasa found that PostNet had contravened the Postal Services Act by transporting and delivering such packages.
As the only operator of this kind in South Africa, the Post Office has the exclusive right to provide delivery services for all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels, and other postal articles up to and including 1kg.
PostNet was initially ordered to stop delivering all packages weighing 1kg and less by 17 March 2020. However, it secured an interdict which allowed it to continue to deliver these packages until the full challenge was heard in the Gauteng High Court.
The Post Office, Postnet and the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) are now set to head to court in a move that could have ramifications for the entire courier industry in South Africa.
“There are exemptions that deal with businesses that do not fall under postal services. Uber Eats, Mr Delivery, etc are such businesses. Obviously, one cannot expect Sapo to be delivering pizza to a consumer,” he said.