News in South Africa 5th April:

1. State of disaster over:

On Monday night, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma terminated South Africa’s national state of disaster on Covid-19, fulfilling the promise made by President Cyril Ramaphosa in an address to the nation just hours before.

State of disaster over
Image taken by: Pavel Danilyuk

In a notice in the Government Gazette, Dlamini Zuma said she and Cabinet had “considered the current situation and the steps taken to augment existing legislation and contingency arrangements”, and decided the state of disaster could end, after two years and 20 days. 

She simultaneously repealed government’s main set of coronavirus regulations, created in April 2020 and updated 45 times since then, except for six sets of provisions, dealing with:

  • masks
  • gatherings
  • international travel
  • the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant
  • extended validity for driving licences, and
  • the Covid-19 Vaccine Injury No-Fault Compensation Scheme

The compensation scheme is due to run until the ministers of finance and health agree it should end, but not before all claims have been finalised. The other five sets of rules will lapse automatically on 4 May, Dlamini Zuma said.

By that time, new regulations are due to be in place that draw their power from legislation that deals with notifiable diseases, rather than disasters. A draft of those rules keeps masks mandatory in public indoor spaces.

Shortly before ending the state of disaster, Dlamini Zuma gazetted a final update to the lockdown rules, tweaking those that will now remain in place for the next month. 

Transitional arrangements 

The Disaster Management Act provides that certain elements of the regulations may remain in place for a limited period for ‘post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation’, Ramaphosa said.

“Accordingly, certain transitional provisions will remain in place for a period of 30 days after the termination of the National State of Disaster to ensure essential public health precautions and other necessary services are not interrupted while the new regulations in terms of the National Health Act come into effect.”

Mandatory protocols when in a public place

  • The wearing of a face mask is mandatory for every person when in an indoor public place, excluding a child under the age of six years.
  • No person will be allowed to use, operate, or perform any service on any form of public transport without a mask.
  • No person will be allowed to enter or be in a building, place or premises, including government buildings, places or premises, used by the public to obtain goods or services, if he or she is not wearing a face mask.
  • All persons in an open public space need not wear a face mask but must maintain a distance of at least one metre from another person.
  •  The school environment is excluded from the requirement of maintaining a distance of at least one metre from another person.
  • An employer may not allow any employee to perform any duties or enter the employment premises if the employee is not wearing a face mask while performing his or her duties.

Gatherings 

All gatherings are permitted at 50% of the venue capacity:

  • Provided persons are fully vaccinated and in possession of a valid vaccination certificate; or
  • Unvaccinated but in possession of a valid certificate of a negative Covid-19 which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of the gathering,

Alternatively, gatherings are permitted for the unvaccinated and those without tests but limited to 1,000 persons or less for indoor venues and 2,000 persons or less for outdoor venues.

If the venue is too small to hold the prescribed number of persons observing a distance of at least one metre from each other, then not more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

Gatherings at a workplace for work purposes are allowed, subject to strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

Hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses are allowed full capacity of the available rooms for accommodation, with patrons wearing face masks and observing a distance of at least one metre from each other when in common spaces.”

Re-opening of borders 

The 21 land borders which are fully operational, will remain as such and the 32 land borders which were closed, will remain closed.

The Home Affairs minister may, from the date of commencement of this amendment to the regulations, issue directions regarding the opening and closing of any further ports of entry.

Travelling to and from the Republic from neighbouring countries is allowed, provided that travellers who are:

  • Fully vaccinated must upon arrival at the land border produce a valid vaccination certificate; and
  • Unvaccinated must upon arrival at the land border, provide a valid certificate of a negative Covid-19 test, recognised by the World Health Organisation, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel.

International air travel is restricted to the following

  • OR Tambo International Airport;
  • King Shaka International Airport;
  • Cape Town International Airport;
  • Lanseria International Airport; and
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.

In the event of the traveller’s failure to submit a certificate as proof of a negative Covid-19 test, the traveller will be required to do an antigen test on arrival at his or her own cost and in the event of a traveller testing positive for Covid-19, he or she will be required to isolate him or herself at his or her own cost, for a period of 10 days.

Outbound travellers from South Africa must comply with the requirements of the country of destination.

All commercial seaports will remain open and small crafts, and all passenger ships, including cruise ships, will be allowed entry into seaports, in line with all health and border law enforcement protocols.

2. Fuel price increase finalised:

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has published the official fuel price adjustments for April 2022.

The fuel price adjustments take into account the emergency interventions announced by National Treasury in cooperation with the energy department whereby the General Fuel Levy will be reduced by R1.50 until 31 May 2022.

On top of the emergency interventions, the local fuel price is also in a much better position thanks to the stronger rand versus the dollar since mid-March, as well as some relative stability in the global oil price – though the latter is still the cause for a massive under-recovery in the basic fuel price.

Taking these factors into consideration, the changes for April are as follows:

  • Petrol 95: increase of R0.36 per litre;
  • Petrol 93: increase of R0.28 per litre;
  • Diesel 0.05%: increase of R1.52 per litre;
  • Diesel 0.005%: increase of R1.69 per litre;
  • Illuminating Paraffin: increase R2.66 per litre.

Warning over petrol price deregulation in South Africa

The Fuel Retailers Association has cautioned against a proposal to ‘deregulate’ the country’s fuel price.

The move is expected to allow retailers to compete on price and offer motorists discounts and special offers to fill up at their stations. However, the association warned that the change could have to opposite effect of promoting competition, and ultimately set the country’s fuel sector back decades.

Speaking to news channel eNCA, the association’s chief executive Reggie Sibiya said the move will effectively destroy the transformation of the sector and prevent the emergence of new fuel retailers.

Sibiya said that fewer than 20% of the country’s petrol stations are owned by black South Africans, and a move to cut fuel margins further would hit these owners the hardest.

He added that the planned proposal did not amount to ‘full deregulation’ which would allow the country’s petrol stations to set any price they want for fuel. Instead, the move to introduce a petrol price ceiling was the worst form of regulation and akin to a ‘nazi regime’ as it does not take into account all of the additional margin costs that fuel retailers have to pay, Sibiya said.

“It’s a killer  – you want to kill businesses this is what is being proposed here. We did say in a 2018 proposal that this is not going to work and we are surprised that it is being introduced now in an opportunistic way, taking advantage of rising fuel prices.”

3. SARS targets churches:

Sars collected over R1.5 trillion between April last year and March.

A substantial amount of this came from a variety of sources, including non-compliant churches and wealthy individuals with a penchant for fancy cars.

Sars auditors looked at 35 cases involving churches or religious institutions, which netted R742 million.

Luxury vehicles owners have also yielded R160 million. Sars auditors targeted owners and entities who were not tax compliant.

Sars said that the findings on these institutions covered a wide range of misrepresentations of the true nature of income and expenses of the entities and individuals involved.

The auditors also conducted 25 lifestyle audit cases with a value of R474 million. The lifestyle audits involved mainly individuals where their lifestyle did not match their tax declarations.

In his latest weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa commended Sars, saying that it was well-established that the so-called “taxman” was one of the most efficient tools to combat corruption.

4. Bitcoin hits new high:

Bitcoin (BTC) has broken above its 100-day moving average for the first time since December 2021, hitting its highest level so far this year.

Having cleared the 100-day moving average, the next and more important hurdle is the 200-day moving average, currently at around $48 500. BTC would need to clear this level before popping the champagne – and there are a few other obstacles along the way.

What a difference a month makes. BTC has started to shake free of the overbearing S&P 500 and Nasdaq, registering strong gains in the last two weeks.

BTC was conceived as the ‘anti-market’, so the idea that it would become a proxy for the tech-heavy Nasdaq or other risk-on indices is disturbing to some.

Mike McGlone, senior commodity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, warned recently of a significant equities correction – and that poses a headache for BTC hodlers, as cryptos will get dragged down with the rest of the market. His advice? Don’t buy the dip. He told The Wolf of All Streets podcast that the forecast of a $100 000 bitcoin might still be achievable some years out but it might easily see $30 000 first.

“This is the year of the ebbing tide, led by the stock market and cryptos following that. Cryptos is the most speculative, reactive market in the world and is a leading indicator, with BTC coming out ahead.

“I fully expect about a one-third correction in the stock market, and people haven’t found the dip yet,” says McGlone.

“If you’re buying the dip, you’re fighting the Fed,” he added, in reference to the potential misstep of ignoring signals from the US Federal Reserve that rates might be hiked seven times this year, with a 50-basis point hike also on the cards instead of the usual 25 basis points hike. This is an indication to sell the rally, he says.

This is the most extended stock market in 20 years, and the most expensive stock market in GDP terms in history.

Research elsewhere suggests we are nearing the late stage of the bear market.

Blockchain research group Glassnode reports that 82% of short-term holders of BTC (those holding for less than 155 days) are nursing unrealised losses, while the total supply in the hands of long-term holders (investors who hang on to their crypto regardless of what happens) is near an all-time high. Any rise in BTC prices will likely flush out weak holders. ‘Holding’ remains the preferred strategy, with the number of younger coins in investor hands now at all-time lows. This is historically associated with late-stage bear markets.

5. Koeberg plant under review:

The past two weeks have seen Koeberg play host to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose experts have been conducting a review of long-term operational safety at the nuclear power plant. 

Flags from Argentina, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Pakistan, Spain and Sweden have been flying at the facility.

But beyond the public relations aspect, the visit was deadly serious. The Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (Salto) review mission was conducted at the request of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. This, as Eskom plans to extend the operation of the units by 20 years until 2045 for a total operational lifetime of 60 years each. Koeberg’s Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1984 and Unit 2 in 1985. 

The long-term operation (LTO) of nuclear power plants is defined as operation beyond an established time frame determined by the licence term, the original plant design, relevant standards or national regulations. 

Thus, as stated by the IAEA, to maintain a plant’s fitness for service, consideration should be given to life-limiting processes and features of systems, structures and components, as well as to reasonably practicable safety upgrades to enhance the safety of the plant to a level approaching that of modern plants.

The IAEA submitted a draft report to the plant management at the end of the mission. Plant management and the South African National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft and a final report will be submitted to management, the NNR and the government within three months.

Eskom typically does not release these reports. 

“We observed that staff at the plant is professional, open and receptive to suggestions for improvement,” the IAEA’s senior nuclear safety officer, Gabor Petofi, said in a press release

“Despite challenges, the plant has eliminated several deviations from IAEA safety standards in ageing management activities and preparation for safe LTO identified during the pre-Salto mission in 2019. 

“The Salto team encourages Eskom and the plant management to address further findings made by this latest mission and to implement all remaining activities for safe LTO.”

The release notes that the IAEA has made some recommendations and suggestions to Koeberg management to further enhance the preparations for safe LTO. These include:

  • Comprehensively review and implement all plant programmes relevant for long-term operation.
  • Complete the revalidation of qualification of cables in the containment for the long-term operation period.
  • Ensure full functionality of the containment structure monitoring system.

“We appreciate the IAEA support in plant ageing management and preparation for safe LTO,” says Riedewaan Bakardien, Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer. 


All information sourced from articles posted by: Business Insider, BusinessTech, EWN, Moneyweb, and Daily Maverick.

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