News in South Africa 5th May:
1. New Covid rules for travel:
South Africa has a new set of coronavirus entry rules for travellers from 5 May, after a late-night update to regulations, just hours before interim measures were due to lapse.
Health minister Joe Phaahla established the new Covid-19 rules under his power to deal with communicable diseases, replicating restrictions that had been made under the auspices of a national state of disaster, which was withdrawn last month.
Phaahla may now disable the entry rules, as a whole or in part, and then re-impose them again, as he considers necessary to deal with the spread of Covid-19.
Here are the entry rules for South Africa as of 5 May:
You can show proof of Covid-19 vaccination…
Travellers can show a “valid vaccination certificate”, as long as it shows at least one dose of any Covid-19 vaccine used in South Africa, or recognised by the World Health Organisation.
… or a negative coronavirus test result, including antigen tests.
Antigen tests must be no more than 48 hours old at the time of departure, and must have been done by “a medical practitioner, registered public health authority or accredited/approved laboratory”.
Recovery certificates are also accepted – for infections in the last three months.
A signed letter of recovery, from a registered health care provider in the country of origin, will also do. But it must come with a PCR test result that is positive for the coronavirus at least 10 days before arrival in South Africa, and no more than 90 days before arrival.
If you get in without any of those, you will be required to take an antigen test. You will be let in regardless of the result.
Anyone who gets to the border without proof of vaccination, recent recovery, or a valid negative test, must be given an antigen test at the port of entry, under the new rules.
Anyone who tests positive must still be allowed into the country. Only those who both test positive and show symptoms of Covid-19 will be required to self-isolate, for 10 days.
Pre-teens and daily visitors are exempt:
There are no entry requirements for children under 12, and for “daily commuters from neighbouring countries”.
2. License renewal clamp down:
It’s D-day for motorists whose driver’s licenses expired between March 2020 and August last year.
According to officials, at the beginning of May, 1.3 million license cards had not been renewed.
This after operations at centres were stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, the country’s only licence printing machine was also sent to Germany for repairs, causing further backlogs.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said that 68% of those who had not renewed their driver’s licenses were between the ages of 25 and 50.
It said that motorists who missed Thursday’s deadline were advised to obtain temporary licences.
Drivers are being warned that police will from this week, not hesitate to apply the law.
The RTMC said that license centres in most of the provinces were working extended hours to keep up with demand.
3. Economic growth risks:
Credit rating agency Moody’s has forecast that South Africa’s economy will grow by about 1.5% over 2022-23, constrained by a rigid labour market, weakening competitiveness and decaying infrastructure.
Moody’s noted that the longer-term growth outlook will depend on the extent to which the government is able to advance its sectoral reforms, especially those aimed at rehabilitating electricity capacity.
The group identified five key areas of concern and what the government needs to do to address these issues:
- Reform objective: Allow land restitution and redistribution, including through expropriation without compensation, but spare the economy by focusing on unexploited lands or unrightfully seized lands.
- Credit view: Positive, because it supports social cohesion and growth. But until fully implemented in a way that ensures respect for the economic objectives, this is a source of uncertainty.
- Progress: Initial public consultations closed. Expropriation Bill drafted and promulgated on 9 October 2020, mandating a compulsory, uniform expropriation process, just and equitable compensation and a possibility of non-compensation in specific cases.
- Reform objective: Increase competition and remove barriers to entrants, especially in the services sectors (tourism, retail, financial services, network industries).
- Credit view: Positive, but progress on reforms is difficult to track, both in terms of implementation and effectiveness.
- Progress: General measures include a new competition bill (February 2019), modernisation of the foreign exchange control regulation (2020 budget), a new industrial master plan and an initiative to reduce the regulatory burden for SMEs, and increase access to financing. Sector-specific measures include an easing of the visa regime (e-Visas), the allocation of new spectrum licenses and measures to encourage competition in the retail sector.
- Reform objective: Boost employment in the public sector and reduce skills mismatch by adapting education and training programmes.
- Credit view: Measures not commensurate with the scale of the issue.
- Progress: Initiatives remain very demand-driven and aspirational in terms of the number of jobs to create (e.g. via the creation of a jobs summit, tax incentives to high young professionals).
- Reform objective: Unbundle Eskom, increase efficiency, shift toward greener energies, procure additional electricity capacity.
- Credit view: Positive, as it would support growth and confidence, and reduce the government’s contingent liabilities.
- Progress: Process ongoing. Transmission is due to be unbundled in 2022 as an initial step. Independent Power Producer framework completed.
- Reform objective: New mining charter.
- Credit view: Neutral, as it provides stability for the mining sector, but is not a game-changer.
- Progress: Completed, but pending legal actions.
- Reform objective: Boost confidence and improve efficiency in the public sector.
- Credit view: Positive, although it will take time to yield results.
- Progress: The Zondo Commission (the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture) has been dissolved. The Commission is in the process of publishing its findings in a three-part report. No individual has been convicted.
4. Stage 8 loadshedding possible:
With half of Eskom’s coal-fired generation capacity already offline, units with combined generation capacity of 4,500MW were at high risk of breaking down
Even as he sought to reassure South Africans that Eskom could still provide electricity and the country would avoid a total blackout, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan raised the possibility of blackouts reaching an unprecedented stage 8, which might lead to outages of up to 13 hours.
Speaking in parliament, Gordhan sought to fend off suggestions by the DA that the utility be declared a “state of disaster”, which would allow provinces and municipalities to seek alternative sources of power
5. More small businesses as bank suppliers:
A Practice Note recently published by the Competition Commission should see more small and black-owned businesses admitted to the supplier panels of banks and insurers.
Most banks and insurers operate supplier panels for specific services such as litigation, conveyancing, product supplies and automotive repairs.
Among the reforms recommended by the CompCom are improved transparency in the selection process to be admitted to a supplier panel, reducing the term of supplier contracts to no more than five years, and lowered barriers to entry.
Each bank has different standards and criteria for admission to supplier panels, with suppliers being required to stump up capital ranging from R5 million to R100 million as part of their scorecard system for panel appointments and contract awards.
”Investment requirements of this nature raise barriers to entry for small suppliers. Banks and Insurers should not engage in conduct that leads to the exclusion of SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs),” says the note.
The commission says it regularly receives complaints alleging unfair competition practices in supplier panels, which could have the effect of reducing competition.
The practice of outsourcing the management of supplier panels to third parties, who in turn allocate work to suppliers, could facilitate market cartels, it says.
Some banks and insurers have long-term supplier agreements extending for 10 years, with agreements that allow for continuous renewal and no end date. This makes the service perpetual and prevents suppliers offering services to competing banks or insurers due to exclusionary clauses that are part of these agreements.
The CompCom notes some of the inefficiencies embedded in this system: banks and insurers will use the same supplier on its panel even when customers are unhappy with the service, or when they would prefer a supplier in their geographical area. In other cases, long-term agreements with suppliers can stifle innovation and competition.
The commission said it considered comments from stakeholders on panel practices, including the Banking Association of South Africa and the South African Insurance Association (Saia).
“This Practice Note is part of the tools that the Commission will use to address market conduct issues of barriers to entry, transformation, and lack of inclusivity in the broader financial sector,” says CompCom Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.