News in South Africa 9th November:
1. Construction sector shortage:
Critical shortages of building and construction materials, including cement, steel, bricks and timber, are suffocating the sector’s recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown and diminishing its impact on the recovery of the economy.
David Metelerkamp, senior economist at construction market intelligence firm Industry Insight, said the shortages, if they continue for an extended period of time, have the potential to derail government’s planned massive infrastructure investment plan to stimulate the economy post the Covid-19 lockdown.
Metelerkamp said the shortages are probably demand-driven “to a degree” because the construction industry will be one of the better performing sectors in the economy this year as all the other sectors are in deep recession.
“But the construction industry is one of the only sectors that the government can play that counter-cyclical role in, because more than half of the sector is funded by government money.
2. Second wave could damage recovery:
This morning, in his weekly newsletter, president Cyril Ramaphosa warned that a second wave of Covid-19 infections could put the country’s economic recovery in jeopardy.
Had we not intervened to secure livelihoods and save businesses, the living conditions of our people and the circumstances of thousands of businesses would have been considerably worse. Now we are in a transition from relief to recovery.
The emergency measures we put in place have laid a firm foundation on which to rebuild our economy. As our focus now shifts to the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, our priority will be to stimulate growth and create jobs.
Plans are being converted to action and commitments are being reflected in jobs and opportunities.
It is all the more critical at this time, more so with the festive season approaching, that we do not become the architects of our own undoing.
A resurgence at any scale will not just dramatically reverse our health gains. It will choke the green shoots of economic recovery that have emerged, and take us back from spring to winter.
3. Education Department dodgy spending:
In the first two Expenditure Disclosure reports the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) was a relatively low spender. By the end of August it had recorded spending of only R13,089,983. But in the September report the DBE notched up R96,157,456 on the “sanitising of buildings”.
The expenditure disclosure report (available here on the Gauteng government website) does not yet include the essential annexures which break down spending by department. However, to try to understand how the GDE could have run up such a big bill, we requested and obtained them from the Provincial Treasury.
They show that R98-million was paid to 28 different companies who were contracted to “sanitise” buildings in preparation for the return to school after the hard lockdown. One company, Insimu Projects (no available website found), received R13.9-million for this. Two other companies with similar names and the same directors, Insimu Medical Group and Insimu Consulting, received R11.9 million and R4.6 million, respectively.
There might be 2,207 schools in Gauteng but given the fact that all these schools had lain empty throughout the hard lockdown it is hard to see why they required deep cleansing when schools reopened in June. After seeing the GDE response, Wits University’s Professor Shabir Madhi put it like this:
“If the schools were closed for weeks and the virus doesn’t survive for more than three days in the environment, the last place to ‘decontaminate’ would be the schools, where there were no humans for the past few months! The virus does not fly – it needs people to move!”
4. Eskom load reduction:
Eskom will implement ‘load reduction’ in four provinces on Saturday evening from 17:00 to 20:00, it said in a notice to customers.
Load reduction, unlike load shedding, involves Eskom turning off power in areas where it believes there is a high risk of damage to its system due to illegal connections and network overload.
The affected areas on Saturday include Lejweleputswa District Municipality in the Free State, large parts of Soweto and the Vaal area in Gauteng; Ladysmith, Newcastle, uMlalazi, uMhlathuze, uMkhanyakude and Msunduzi municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Mopani and Capricorn districts in Limpopo.
5. SA reactions to Biden win:
he Nelson Mandela Foundation has added its voice to the many congratulating US President-Elect Joe Biden for winning the 2020 elections, saying now begins the daunting task of undoing the Trump administration’s deepening of racism, sexism, xenophobia, Afrophobia and many other intersecting vectors of prejudice and hatred.
The foundation congratulated Biden and his Vice-President Kamala Harris on what “has been a successful but punishing election campaign”.
“We look forward to seeing the White House occupied by a leadership team which understands the central importance of human dignity. We take special pleasure from the fact that Mz Harris is the first woman in US history to fill the position of Vice-President,” the foundation said.