News in South Africa 5th March:
1. One year of Covid-19 in South Africa:
Today marks one year since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in South Africa, with health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize saying that despite difficulties, the country has remained resilient during the pandemic.
However, he warned that the pandemic wasn’t something that happened, but something that is still happening. He called on South Africans to continue standing strong and adhering to all protocols that help prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’ve seen a lot of devastation but we’ve also seen a lot of people working together. There has been concerning cases in relation to corruption but the processes of investigation have gone on to deal with those.” Zweli said.
“So we must continue to work together and support each other. It has been a huge SA effort and everyone has done their best. It’s important to encourage and support each other. Let’s do the best out of the situation and look forward to a time where we live without COVID-19.”
The minister assured South Africans the move to lockdown Alert Level 1 was well calculated.
He said several factors were considered, including the drop in daily COVID-19 active cases.
“We have felt it was important to move to Level 1. The level of daily cases and the impact of hospitalisation, number of deaths and the general extent to which our society is affected by the pandemic: this turns to be what we look at to determine which restrictions are needed.
2. Steinhoff’s former CEO charged:
Steinhoff’s former CEO Markus Jooste and two other former executives have been charged by prosecutors in Oldenburg, Germany, with numerous counts of balance sheet manipulation.
Three years and two months since he resigned at the start of South Africa’s largest-ever private sector accounting fraud scandal, former Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste has at last been charged – in Germany.
While Steinhoff is headquartered in South Africa, it has its primary listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (FSE).
German authorities on Thursday announced that three former Steinhoff executives had been charged with balance sheet fraud which took place between July 2011 and January 2015.
While the public prosecutor’s office in Oldenburg, Germany, did not name the three former executives, a source with knowledge of the probe confirmed that Jooste was among those charged. Jooste’s South African lawyer, Callie Albertyn, earlier in the day said his client had no comment.
3. Development projects fast tracked:
Government is fast-tracking a number of development projects, with a R1.88 billion office for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform being approved for engineering group WBHO.
WBHO said public sector infrastructure spending has been fast-tracked, with many shovel-ready projects accelerated across all of the group’s operations.
It said there has been a noticeable increase in South Africa in the availability of new projects from state-owned entities, including national roads agency Sanral, Eskom, Transnet, passenger rail agency Prasa and Rand Water.
The group said renewable energy projects have also gained momentum under Eskom’s emergency energy round and that bidding in respect of Round 5 is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2021.
However, WBHO continued to bleed from the troublesome Western Roads Upgrade (WRU) project in Australia in the six months to December 2020, which had a significant negative impact on the group’s financial performance for the period.
WBHO CEO Wolfgang Neff said on Wednesday the group was awarded the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform PPP project last week and started work on it the next day.
4. Communication contracts tied to Zweli associates:
Further investigations into R82 million worth of communication contracts for the Department of Health have revealed that the director of the company involved was working at a petrol station, full time, when the contracts were undertaken.
Instead, insiders at the department were under the impression that two close associated with the health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, were running the show.
The associates, who were paid as contractors, deny acting as fronts for the company. The company has no web presence and an office address in a residential area.
5. Huge losses in insurance industry:
Heavy losses sustained in the past year, in the long and short term insurance industry due to paying out large amounts of claims for deaths or business interruption.
Santam’s profit for the past year fell by 47% due in part to the large amounts it must pay out in business interruption insurance claims, as determined by court rulings. This was partly offset by a very quiet year for vehicle insurance claims, as well as “limited” natural catastrophes.
Momentum Metropolitan has seen a 43% fall in its half-year headline profit to R1 billion as the impact of deaths due to Covid-19 hit its bottom line. Its Momentum Corporate unit, which underwrites employee benefits for many SA companies, saw 35% more death claims than normal.
Liberty suffered a headline loss of almost R1.6 billion for the past year. Its total death and disability claims paid during 2020 amounted to R11.7 billion – an 11% increase.
In a trading update, Sanlam said that its operating profit for last year fell by between 18% to 28% – but its headline profit (which is the main measure of profit in SA) will be higher due to accounting changes.