Financial and Fiscal Commission recommends deep cuts to government spending amid COVID-19 pandemic
26 May 2020, 4:39 PM
The Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) has recommended deep cuts in government spending in response to the economic impact of COVID-19.
The commission says, among others, the government needs to reprioritise public sector infrastructure spending by postponing projects that are still at a pre-feasibility stage or new infrastructure that is not directly related to COVID-19.
It says expenditure on goods and services, that are not critical for service delivery and the fight against COVID-19, will make reprioritisation easier. This includes training and development, travel, subsistence and catering.
The FFC has also identified 23 conditional grants where there is room for cuts in all spheres of government.
In a presentation to the Appropriations Committee, Mkhululi Ncube of the FFC said there is also a need to re-look the compensation of employees.
“We know that compensation is the biggest driver of spending across most departments. Those departments where compensation is excessively high there’s need to moderate compensation spending in those particular departments.”
South Africa’s GDP growth
Last week, S&P Global Ratings said it projects South Africa’s economy to shrink by 4.5% this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted production and consumption.
In April, S&P downgraded South Africa’s credit rating further into a non-investment-grade territory, arguing COVID-19-related pressures would have significant adverse implications for the country’s already ailing economy and for tax revenues.
It lowered its long-term foreign-currency rating on South Africa to “BB-minus” from “BB” and its long-term local-currency rating to “BB” from “BB-plus,” with a stable outlook.
“COVID-19 will weigh heavily on GDP growth given the strict domestic lockdown that has shut down much of the economy, the markedly weaker external demand outlook, and tighter credit conditions,” S&P said. “As a result, we now project the economy to shrink by 4.5% this year.”
Ndumiso Hadebe analyses the impact of coronavirus on the economy:
Gauteng Education department mulls ways to deal with school break-ins
26 May 2020, 3:19 PM
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says the department is now facing a challenge of break-ins at schools as criminals target Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Lesufi visited Ga-Rankuwa Primary School in Tshwane where the department has been having problems with delivering PPEs due to disruptions by some governing bodies which do not want the services of the company that has been tasked to deliver PPEs.
Police had to be roped in to help deliver the equipment. Most schools have, however, received protective gear.
Grade 7 and 12 learners are expected to return to school on 1 June.
Lesufi says although security has been beefed up to help deliver the equipment to schools, they might have to look at other alternatives.
“So far, there have been five schools that have been vandalised, where people are looking for the PPE’s. And that is why I’m persuading the Department of Health that we might have to concentrate on using soap at our schools because the PPE’s, that have an element of alcohol, are starting to attract the wrong people.”
Gauteng Education visits several schools to check the state of readiness ahead of schools re-opening:
Concerns raised about children going back to school
There have been concerns from teacher unions and parents about the re-opening of schools since the announcement was made.
Lesufi says he is confident that learners will come in their numbers when schools re-open on Monday.
“I really believe the majority of parents will bring their children. We don’t know when will this COVID-19 end. If we knew it was ending in September then we could sacrifice and wait. It may go beyond 2021. It may go beyond 2022. Do we want to be a country that has to produce a generation of learners that has not gone to school? Surely not. Because this is the generation that must properly take the country forward. We can’t keep them back, but at the same time, we must protect.”
But there is a school in the West Rand that might not open due to cases of COVID-19 in that area.
“There is a mining area in the West Rand. If there is one area we are worried about, it is that area, because there are workers from that mine that tested positive … 162 miners. I spoke to the MEC that we will seek guidance on whether the school in that ward, should it open or not. So, that’s one area we are putting our energy on. We will be guided by the MEC of Health and also be guided by the premier if that school will have to delay the opening.”
At Ga-Rankuwa Primary School, Principal Ernest Boikanyo, says the school is expecting 137 learners.
Boikanyo says teachers at this school have shown interest in coming back, despite concerns by teacher unions.
“Fortunately, I’ve been in constant touch with educators. They have been ever ready to come back to school. We are finalising the preparations to ensure that come Monday, all the teachers are safe in terms of PPEs, social distancing in class and everything that needs to be done as per requirement by the department.”
Lesufi says the department will also be monitoring adherence by private schools.
Below are some of the measures which will be put in place when schools re-open:
No longer all doom and gloom, says Prof Adekeye Adebajo
25 May 2020, 10:26 PM
Parliament marked Africa Day with a lecture under the theme “Silencing the Guns: Creating conditions for Africa’s development to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa.
A day observed to remind all Africans of their commonalities. Among those commonalities, strife, colonisation, and war.
But, the University of Johannesburg’s Pan African Institute Head, Professor Adekeye Adebajo, says it’s no longer all doom and gloom, saying in more modern times, positive steps have been taken.
“The OAU Charter, for example, the AU’s constitutive Act of 2000, actually allows for intervention in cases of egregious human rights abuses, instability and unconstitutional changes of government, and that is revolutionary when we consider the OAU had a very rigid, non-interventionist stance which prioritises human rights abuses to happen across the continent in places like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi.”
He says African governments need to address the ongoing governance challenges and observe rules of democratic governance.
National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise agrees. “South Africa must use ever position, every fibre in our bodies to ensure that we deal decisively with issues of conflict around our continent. We must resolve the Southern Sudan conflict, we must look at Libya, we must look at Somalia, we must help solve the issues at the Sahel region, and all the other issues which are very complex for me to understand, which still persist in the est of the DRC. We cannot begin to talk about integration if we are unable to make people talk, to make people resolve their everyday issues.”
Adebajo also called for the United Nations to take the continent seriously, by including Nigeria, and South Africa, as permanent members of its Security Council, making the UN more representative.
He adds that security sector reform, disarmament, reintegration of soldiers, and more investment in the delivery of social services would go a long way in silencing the guns.
Today marks the 57th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, which is now referred to as the African Union.
The day has been celebrated through a virtual broadcast of speeches by the organisations’ officials as the continent faces the battle against the coronavirus.
President Cyril Ramaphosa says the coronavirus pandemic has shown Africa’s ability in working together to solve its own problems. Delivering the Africa Day speech as African Union Chairperson, he says Africa is firmly managing the global public health crisis.
The continent has more than 96 000 positive cases of COVID-19 with more than 3 000 resulting in death.
Ramaphosa says the positive thing that can be taken from the pandemic is that governments have accelerated their development agendas.
“This COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on our ability to meet the aspiration of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 of a peaceful, united and prosperous continent. The virus has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to exist on our continent and across the world. It has shown how far we are from realising our developmental goals and our responsibilities to the citizens of our continent. But at the same time, this global crisis should enable a new Africa to come to the fore. It should be an Africa of heroic acts of solidarity; an Africa of cross-border collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources; an Africa that is united by a common goal.”
Africa Day celebrated differently this year because of the coronavirus:
Youth called into action
African Union Youth Envoy Aya Chebbi used the celebrations to call on young people to rise up against the current challenges.
“Because we do not need permission to serve our continent. Wherever we are, young people have a role to play. We can commit today to change COVID-19 into an opportunity for transformation and inter-generational leadership.”
Fight against poverty
The only remaining founding father of the continental body, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda reminded the current leadership of the job at hand.
“And now it is up to you and your colleagues on the continent and in the diaspora to push ahead and fight for our people’s dignity and freedom. Freedom from poverty, hunger and disease,” says Kaunda.
Many Africa Day commemorations were virtual as the world battles to contain the invisible and unrelenting virus.
Below is the history of the AU:
Additional reporting by Noma Bolani
Cold front with promise of rain expected over the Eastern Cape
25 May 2020, 8:49 PM
The first cold wet weather of this season is expected over the dry Eastern Cape this week, with a promise of some rain over the Langkloof, which is the catchment area for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
The metro is in the grip of a serious drought with the average dam levels at just over 20%. An intense cold front is expected to pass over the western and eastern Cape on Monday.
A spokesperson for the SA Weather Services in Port Elizabeth, Garth Sampson says showers and snow over most parts of the Eastern Cape are predicted.
“The main catchment area in the Langkloof will possibly get good falls of rain over the South Western parts of the province with 25mm during the weather event. Minimum temperatures are expected to plummet overnight from the Tuesday through to Wednesday, with widespread frost over the interior on Wednesday morning.”
Although the rain will be most welcome, it will at best fill our water tanks, but do little, or anything to relieve the water crisis.
Safety, hygiene packs delivered at Western Cape schools
25 May 2020, 8:12 PM
The Western Cape Education Department says safety and hygiene packs have been delivered to schools in the province in preparation for the return of Grade 7 and 12 learners next week.
Provincial Minister, Debbie Schäfer, says teachers across the province reported to schools on Monday to prepare for the phased return of learners.
“Detailed guidelines have also been issued to schools on a variety of topics, including the management of confirmed cases at schools, hygiene practices, hostel and learner transport safety and the management of learners and teachers with co-morbidities. I would like to thank all principals, school management teams and all other staff that have been hard at work getting schools ready to receive teachers today. “
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) says all schools should have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“Our most important thing is safety. So, we are making sure the schools have got their PPE’s in place, that the equipment and materials are there to clean and sanitise. So, that is the most important thing at this stage and of course, those with co-morbidities are accommodated in a humane way,” says union’s branch chairperson for the Southern Cape region, Bernadine Probart.
Some schools in the Saldanha district in the Western Cape have put all possible measures in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus:
Below are some safety precautions to be put in place at schools:
Last week Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announced that the back to school plan, starting with the Grade 7 and 12 learners. Schools were shut down in March after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a Level-5 lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Currently, the Western Cape has 14 740 coronavirus cases, which is 65.3% of all the cases in South Africa.