News in South Africa 4th October:
1. UK to lift travel restrictions:
The United Kingdom has updated its international travel system, effectively scrapping its ‘traffic light’ programme, which classified countries as ‘green’, ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ based on their Covid-19 risk.
The change, which took effect from Monday morning (4 October), introduces only two categories – ‘red’ or ‘the rest of the world’.
This means the United Kingdom (UK) could ease travel restrictions to South Africa as soon as Thursday according to a report by The Telegraph.
This possible move follows heavy lobbying by South African business organisations as well as the government, to urge the UK government to move the country from its controversial red list, which requires travellers to quarantine even if they test negative and are vaccinated.
Such a shift would mean travellers would no longer have stay 10 days in a so-called quarantine hotel at their own expense of £2,285 (R44,800).
The lobbying to be moved from red list went to the highest level with SA President Cyril Ramaphosa and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussing the issue last week.
If SA were to be moved off the red list, it would only require travellers:
- To take a Covid-19 test three days before travelling to the UK, even if vaccinated,
- Book and pay for one on arrival in the UK,
- Complete a passenger location form,
- Quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days if not fully vaccinated
Fully vaccinated people would not have to quarantine.
“As announced last month, the new rules also mean that from later in October eligible fully vaccinated passengers with an approved vaccine and recognised certificate from a country, not on the red list will be able to replace their day two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England. The government aims to have this in place for when people return from half-term breaks.”
The only outstanding issue is that of a vaccination certificate that the UK government would deem “robust enough” for any corrupt practices. President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed last week that vaccine certificates will be rolled out by the Department of Health, with no timeline put forward at this stage.
2. R800 unemployment grant needed:
South Africa needs to offer a grant of R800 per month for unemployed South Africans as part of efforts to revive the economy, says the former chief executive of Goldman Sachs for Sub-Saharan Africa Colin Coleman.
Coleman, who is also the co-chair of the Youth Employment Scheme and board member of The Foschini Group (TFG), on Thursday was speaking at the Sunday Times National investment Dialogue. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana also spoke at the event, which was held virtually.
“I personally echo the voices of countless others in civil society calling for income support for the 12 million unemployed. This is not a radical, socialist idea. This has been trotted out by just about every western democracy, centrist or social democratic party around the world,” said Coleman.
3. City Power to take over Soweto electricity:
Soweto will soon be getting electricity directly from the City of Johannesburg.
The city is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding and later an agreement with Eskom in the coming weeks, paving the way for City Power to take over electricity infrastructure from the power utility.
This move is expected to bring relief for Soweto residents as Eskom has been battling to get a grip on the electricity debt in the area and constant power cuts to compel residents to pay.
This has a led to numerous protests in Soweto causing a huge headache for the governing ANC especially ahead of the local government elections. The ANC will be looking at retaining Soweto which is one of the most important and densely populated townships in Gauteng.
Moerane said that there were other areas included in the takeover deal such as Sandton, Orange Farm, Finetown, Ivory Park and Diepsloot, which will also no longer receive electricity directly from Eskom.
This will make City Power the only supplier of electricity in Johannesburg.
Until recently, Soweto residents owed Eskom R12bn in unpaid bills. Through negotiations with the city, R5bn of this debt was written off in the past financial year.
Newly elected Johannesburg mayor Mpho Moerane this week stated that, he believed the city could do a better job in dealing with electricity issues in Soweto.
“We as a city supply water in Soweto, we collect waste, we maintain parks, we have clinics. We don’t experience problems that Eskom is experiencing with the Soweto customers. We know and we understand the area [better] compared to Eskom,” Moerane said.
“In terms of service delivery, we do everything in Soweto, it’s only electricity that we don’t supply.”
4. Inflation higher than stats?:
Many believe South Africa’s inflation is higher than the official figures state.
Past debates between sceptics and the statisticians at Statistics SA (Stats SA) have been entertaining, with the official bean counters proving that the math is correct and commentators scoring points with their arguments.
The latest inflation figure – indicating that it increased to 4.9% in August compared with 4.6% in July – is accurate, even against the background of much higher price increases in certain categories.
Fuel prices, for example, increased by nearly 20% compared with August 2020, electricity by 16% and meat by 10%.
In this rare instance, both sides of the argument are correct.
The inflation rate depends on what products people buy, either as individuals or households, or as a society, which Stats SA is mandated to measure.
Those who eat meat will have seen their grocery bill increase by much more than that of their vegetarian neighbours.
Over the past year, the 10% increase in the price of meat and 21% increase in the price of oil to fry the meat far outweighed the 5.6% increase in vegetable prices and 3.5% increase in the prices of bread and cereals.
In addition, the price of fruit decreased by 2.2%, according to Stats SA.
The weights allotted to the different products in the inflation basket is important, and the official ‘shopping list’ makes for very interesting reading.
Fuel again provides an excellent example.
“Petrol prices recorded all-time highs in August 2021, with the price of inland 95-octane petrol, for example, reaching R18.30 per litre,” says Stats SA, adding that fuel prices increased by 4.9% between July and August alone.
However, Stats SA’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) report shows that the 19.6% year-on-year increase (to August 2021) in fuel prices translated into an increase of 9.9% in overall transport costs, when factoring in the much smaller increases in other running costs (4.9%), the purchase cost of vehicles (5.3%) and public transport (5.3%).
In addition, the weight of fuel in the overall basket of goods and services used to calculate the CPI and inflation rate seems low at less than 4.6% – reducing the impact of the continuing hefty increase in fuel prices significantly.
5. New Chief Justice guilty:
Western Cape Judge President, John Hlophe, has accepted a nomination to be the next Chief Justice.
This is despite the Judicial Services Commission finding him guilty of gross misconduct.
He also faces a possible impeachment hearing.
It relates to a complaint by two Constitutional Court judges.
They said he tried to influence them in a case involving former President Jacob Zuma and arms dealer Thales.
Zikhona Ndlebe from Judges Matter says it’s now up to the President’s appointment panel.