News in South Africa 6th July:
1. Covid cases take a downturn:
The rolling seven-day average of daily infections in Gauteng has shown a downward turn – though scientists say it is too early to celebrate, and the decline would have to continue for several days before it can be considered a trend.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on Monday said a major concern was that Gauteng’s neighbouring provinces were now also seeing a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections.
Limpopo, the North-West, Mpumalanga and the Free State are all showing an uptick in caseloads.
This comes as the nation continues to ride the steep slope of its third wave, recording more fatalies than during the peak of the first wave a year ago.
The CSIR’s Dr Ridhwaan Suliman said there were fears provinces surrounding the nation’s COVID-19 epicentre could follow the same trajectory as Gauteng.
“Neighbouring provinces of Gauteng are showing a sharp rise in the number of reported cases. North West is now at its highest level it’s ever seen in the pandemic. So too are Limpopo and Mpumalanga on the rise now and even the Free State,” he said.
Nationally, about 70,000 COVID tests are being conducted daily, which is indicative of more and more people presenting symptoms.
“This situation is quite serious right now and we do need to try and play our part to really flatten the curve, and then try and get over the peak of the third wave that we’re currently experiencing,” Suliman added.
2. Funds pumped into housing:
A development finance company wholly owned by the government of the United Kingdom is pumping R500 million into lower-end housing, mostly in Johannesburg, as it seeks to support jobs and growth, and make money.
The CDC Group on Monday announced the investment into the Diversity Urban Property Fund, which is best known for Jewel City in Johannesburg, a multi-billion-rand redevelopment on the seedier side of the city.
Its money will fund 2,500 new residential units over five years, “predominantly” in Johannesburg, said CDC in a statement.
The CDC Group’s only shareholder is the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), which describes its purpose as pursuing that country’s national interests and to “project the UK as a force for good in the world”. The company has a dual mandate, both seeking to support jobs and growth, and turn a profit for reinvestment.
Investing in South African real estate will help contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on economic growth, sustainable cities, and climate change, said CDC.
“Affordable residential rentals have been very, very resilient in the face of economic shocks”,” said Kleynhans, while there was interest from capital managers “while people are not building new office blocks or shopping centres.
3. Hospitality in dire straights:
The situation is getting dire for the hospitality industry, with representatives saying that hotels, restaurants and other players in the sector will not be able to take the blow from level 4 lockdown restrictions being extended.
“We rely on international tourists… Cape Town really relies on international tourism for about 80% of its business…” says Marc Waschsberger, Managing Director of The Capital
Unfortunately, economists and analysts say that it is very likely that the lockdown will be extended, probably for another two weeks.
South Africa’s third wave of Covid-19 infections is surpassing the severity of its previous two waves, and the country’s healthcare system is buckling.
The latest lockdown regulations are likely to remain in place, according to the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).
The BER is lobbying for income support for workers impacted by this latest lockdown.
Groups are putting pressure on the government to re-introduce some form of financial support for the sectors hit by the lockdown – with pleas for the TERS or Solidarity Fund to step in. The only thing government says it is looking at is the TERS.
4. Nuclear Power moving forward:
Eskom is moving forward on its plans to establish a new nuclear power site in Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.
The country’s National Nuclear Regulator said that it received a Nuclear Installation Site Licence (NISL) application from Eskom for the site, with public hearings scheduled in the surrounding towns of Jeffrey’s Bay and St Francis Bay at the end of August.
The hearings are the first step in the application process and are aimed at gaining insights from members of the public on issues relating to health, safety and the environment.
Thyspunt was identified as a possible site for a nuclear plant as far back as 2008, with Eskom also looking at Duynefontein and Bantamsklip in the Western Cape as possible sites.
South Africa currently has a single nuclear plant at Koeberg in the Western Cape. A drive for additional facilities largely faded after the ruling party forced Jacob Zuma to step down as president in 2018.
“The procurement of 2,500 MW from nuclear power will increase the nuclear contribution to the country energy mix from 2.4% to 5.6%,” it said.
The average annual electricity demand is expected to grow by 1.8% in 2030 and 1.4% in 2050.
Compounding the issue is the planned decommissioning of several Eskom coal power stations, with 5,732 MW set to be decommissioned by 2023.
This will increase to 11,017 MW by 2030, Nersa said.
5. Latest wage offer considered:
Unions are considering the latest wage offer from the government, of a 1.5% increase and a bonus of up to R1,695. An expert on these kinds of negotiations believes that workers will be tempted to take the offer, even though it is not close to their demands – largely because they know that there is very little room for the government to make concessions.
While unions have threatened ‘the mother of all strikes’, there is also a prevailing understanding that the country as a whole and the economy in particular cannot withstand that, and will lead to an even weaker position for jobs and wages.
From a union perspective, they are very much up in arms about Treasury’s whole idea to bring down the government labour bill at least R300 billion over the next three years. Government has already made that very strong statement. And it’s probably also why Mr Mchunu has issued a very firm declaration in this regard.
If one looks at this in perspective, then 35% of government expenditure on the public sector is with regard to our public-sector labour bill. That’s the single greatest or biggest criticism with regard to government expenditure – specifically in the public sector. Government is forced to take that strong stand, and the temperature in that regard is “We’re not going to budge’’.