News in South Africa 5th February:
1. Future alcohol bans still a possibility:
The blanket ban on alcohol sales might be over, but the legal battle between South African Breweries (SAB) and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is not.
And, according to an affidavit filed by the minister in the Western Cape High Court this week, another, similar suspension on liquor sales is “not inconceivable”, depending on the circumstances in SA at the time.
Ramaphosa eased restrictions on the sale of alcohol in an address to the nation on Monday. However, in an affidavit filed in the Western Cape High Court this week, Dlamini-Zuma says while she doesn’t believe SAB’s legal challenge is relevant any longer, she is compelled to file a response because SAB is “persisting with the application in its current form”.
However, she adds, “While it is not inconceivable that another suspension (of similar effect) may be imposed in the future, whether this does occur will be entirely fact dependent with reference to the prevailing circumstances at the time.” That is why, she adds, any current response she files will not be relevant in the future.
In the affidavit, Dlamini-Zuma says the intention was never to cause undue harm but based on necessity. “Government has been fully alive to the fact that measures such as the temporary suspension have come at significant financial cost to those working and operating in the affected sectors.”
At the time, SAB said it supported all lawful measures that curbed the spread of the pandemic, including a curfew, reduced indoor and outdoor capacity at gatherings, measured alcohol restrictions and heightened law enforcement. However, it regarded an outright ban on the sale of alcohol as unconstitutional.
2. Putco follows greyhound with retrenchments:
Putco confirmed on Thursday that it has arrived at a final figure of 214 jobs to be cut in its retrenchment process, after engaging with unions over the course of months in a process where 300 job cuts were originally planned.
The news comes in an economic climate that has been rocked by nearly a year of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions which limited people’s ability to travel and organise big gatherings.
On Wednesday it emerged that luxury long-distance bus service, Greyhound, will halt operations in February, in an abrupt ordeal for the nearly 700 workers at the long-distance bus service and its low cost Citiliner.
“Yes, we are retrenching 214 employees. As you estimate numbers for retrenchment, we also asked people to go into early retirements and voluntary exit. We had due consultation, and we had four meetings or more. The final consultation was at the end of January,” said Putco spokesperson Matlakala Motloung.
3. Over R26 Mil to be recouped for overcharging:
Over R26 million is being recouped from companies that overcharged for personal protective equipment related to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Twenty companies linked to PPE contracts in Gauteng are being forced to pay back the money, following investigations.
Contracts were terminated and deemed illegal, after it was found that the Gauteng government paid more than they should have for the items.
4. ANC wants a cut of vaccine rollout:
The ANC’s business wing, the Progressive Business Forum (PBF), is pushing for its members who help fund the party to secure a cut of the contracts for the vaccine supply chain.
The PBF met the ANC’s top leadership including President Cyril Ramaphosa two weeks ago to lobby for a cut of the contracts for the logistics that will get the jab into people’s arms. The first one million vaccines arrived on Monday 1 February and there is already a vaccine business race, similar to the personal protective equipment (PPE) race to supply masks, cleaning, sanitisers and medical goods and services.
This turned into the Covid-19 PPE scandal in which R7.5-billion was lost to irregular spending, according to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). The first three phases of the 40 million vaccine dose plan for 2021 are budgeted at R12-billion, according to Business for South Africa; the government has pencilled in a total cost of R30-billion. The Treasury has raised the possibility of a tax increase.
The vaccine drive is funded by philanthropists, medical aid reserves, government debt and reprioritisation of spending. The government could not afford to make the R283-million deposit to Covax in December, and the Solidarity Fund (a philanthropic mission) paid it to the Global Vaccine Alliance, which is running the co-operative drug-purchasing scheme.
Asked whether the vaccine drive should be a business opportunity rather than a national project of public good done voluntarily, Matabane said, “I fully agree with the sentiment, but nobody renders a service for free. People took advantage of there not being processes [in the PPE purchases by the state], but now procurement is being centralised.” This cuts out the chancers, he stated.
5. Markets looking positive:
Markets look set for a positive day after Wall Street gains overnight. Investors cheered strong US employment data. But GameStop, AMC, and other Reddit favourites tumbled as day traders rushed to dodge additional losses.
Gamestop shares slid by 30% on Thursday, extending their pullback from a stratospheric rise stoked by retail investors fighting against hedge funds that have been heavily shorting shares of the video games retailer.
Shares fell by 30% to trade below $63 each during late-morning trade, heading for their lowest close since January 25.
The stock price has since been dropping, an indication that short-squeeze conditions have been dissipating. A tweet on Thursday from S3 Partners Ihor Dusaniwsky showed shares shorted have declined by 36.2 million over the last week. The analytics firm has been tracking short interest data in Gamestop.
The rand was earlier at R15.00/$.