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Cost of living continues to rise in SA amid COVID-19 pandemic
10 May 2021, 3:05 PM

Consumers are finding it hard to get by due to the high cost of goods and services. The price of food and other essentials has gone up with taxi fares also expected to increase from next month. A survey has found that the cost of living among South Africans has significantly increased, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the R350 social relief grant came to an end, adding more woes for the poor who were dependent on this monthly income for their sustenance.

A survey done by a technology company, M4Jam, has found that the cost of living for South Africans has become unbearable.

CEO of M4Jam, Georgie Midgley, says the majority of the respondents surveyed across the country say they had to change their spending and consumption patterns including cutting down on non-essentials such as data and fast food.

“99% of people felt that the cost of living has increased. The increase is largely felt in food and in transport, which is obviously the essentials that people need to live. After that, there’s things like utilities which is electricity, water, phone, internet – all of those essentials are increasing on a day-to-day basis. People are defiantly feeling squeezed and pushed,” says Midgley.

Human Rights organisation, Black Sash, has been advocating for the payment of a basic income grant for the most vulnerable and the poor. The group says the grant has provided a lifeline from starvation for many poor people in South Africa.

“There’s no income for them. People need to survive and we don’t know how they are going to survive. Government is failing to provide for its people in terms of its constitutional obligation because where you don’t have income support; the constitution says the government is obligated to provide financial support for those who cannot find (it). Despite people being able-bodied, wanting to work, there are just no jobs,” says Black Sash National Advocacy Manager, Hoodah Abrahams-Faker.

South Africa’s economy is currently not doing well with some economists even saying that it’s technically bankrupt. The unemployment rate is sitting at over 30% with government spending billions of rands to service its debt of over R3 trillion.

The country’s woes have also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine rollout lagging behind.

Economist, Bonang Mohale, says the poor will suffer the most during these difficult times.

“The loss of livelihoods, the people that are unemployed, that are retrenched would probably be ten times more than those people that have been killed by the virus. We lost about 2.2 million jobs. You multiply that by five people that are dependent on the single breadwinner. Now, you understand why 10 million people are unemployed. So, the majority of our people are going to starve to death, die from hunger and starvation,” says Mohale.

Taxi organisation, Santaco is also expected to increase taxi fares from the 1st of July.

Santaco Spokesperson, Thabiso Molelekwa says the petrol price increases and the impact of COVID-19 on the taxi industry, especially on operational costs are some of the reasons for the increase.

He also says government delays in subsidising the taxi industry is adding to the industry’s financial woes.

“If you look at the past eight months, you will realise that the petrol price increase pattern has been quiet steep. The industry has not recovered from the impact of COVID-19. You have operators who have not really settled the arrangements they have made with the different financiers in terms of their vehicles. Everything has gone up, and as a result, that would affect elements of what makes our operational costs, the insurance, instalments in terms of vehicle financing, spares that we use.”

In the video below, consumers urged to use credit wisely:

 

Tumi Mathaise: The cost of living is too high

It is 8am and Tumi Mathaise is already hard at work, slicing meat and boiling rice in big silver pots, placed on top of gas stoves. He sells a plate of food for R35 in the Johannesburg CBD.

With the money he gets, he pays rent for his family and sends some of it back home, in North West, to pay for his siblings’ tuition. He says since the COVID-19 outbreak, the price of basic foods, like mielie-meal, rice and oil has increased,. he says the price of the gas he uses for cooking has also increased.

“To be honest with you, it is difficult these days. You can see I am cutting this meat, but from this bag, I won’t get any profit. This bag is  R700 but I am not going to get the profit I used to get before. Before, I used to get a profit of R300 or R350. But now I get R150. It means things have gone up. The cost of living is too high.”

drugs
Western Cape police seize drugs worth R13 million in separate busts
9 May 2021, 9:32 PM

Western Cape police have revealed that they seized illegal drugs last week valued at about R13 million in three major busts in two days.

Spokesperson Novela Potelwa says in total six suspects were arrested and some of them have already appeared in court. Potelwa says police on Tuesday last week intercepted large quantities of heroin, crystal meth and cocaine valued at R5.4  million on the West Coast town of Vredendal.

On Wednesday police raided two storage facilities at Westlake and Noordhoek where they seized 30 000 mandrax tablets and crystal meth.

Potelwa says there was a third bust for dagga also on Wednesday.

“Lockdown II forces descended on residence in Windsor, Kraaifontein where a dagga cultivating lab with dagga products were seized. The value of the seizure is estimated at is R5.4 million. Police believe the seizures will go a long way in efforts to rid Western Cape communities of drugs.”

 

COVID-19 infection rate over the past week in Gauteng a cause for concern: Dr Suliman
9 May 2021, 9:15 PM

Senior Researcher at the  Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Ridhwaan Suliman says there has been a sharp increase in positive coronavirus cases in South Africa in the last two weeks and people must continue to adhere to protocols to prevent a major resurgence of the virus.

Dr Suliman says the test positivity rate in the last week was 6.7%  which is well above the WHO’s recommended levels. He also says the 60 % increase in the number of new coronavirus infections in Gauteng over the last week is a cause for concern.

“Of particular concern and currently thriving the increase in the national numbers is the increase in the populist province of Gauteng. Currently, Gauteng is averaging just over 500 new cases per day over the last week. Currently, the test positivity we have on average is at 6.7 percent across the country and that increases are quite sharp about 5 percent a week ago. It is certainly concerning with these increase trends we have seen in infection rates. Once the positivity rate starts increasing it confirms that we are not testing widely enough,” says Dr Suliman.

Dr Suliman says the situation in the Free State and the Northern Cape must also be closely monitored.

South Africans are urged to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and regular hand washing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

People are also urged to avoid areas with poor ventilation and crowded spaces. The death toll from COVID 19 is approaching 55 thousand people in South Africa. However, the real death toll could be far higher – given that over 150 000 excess deaths are believed to have taken place in South Africa so far during the pandemic.

“At the moment we averaging 45 new deaths per day across the country and that is a slight increase of 12 percent week on week. The increase is largely driven by an increase in Gauteng and Northern Cape and the Free State. Also when we look at deaths in hospitals is showing a significant increase. But unfortunately, if the infection rate does increase we may see many people, unfortunately, succumbing to the virus.,” adds Dr Suliman.

Question of travel restrictions following detection of variant first diagnosed in India

The Acting Executive Director for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Professor Adrian Puren, says COVID-19 travel restrictions need to be balanced with the need to grow the economy.

Prof Puren says there should be a fine balance to manage the situation especially as coronavirus variants are in circulation worldwide.

The Department of Health earlier said it had detected the presence of coronavirus variants dominant in India and the UK in South Africa.

The Department says, “The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) confirmed today that 2 variants of concern, other than the B.1.351 already dominating in South Africa, have been detected. These are B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK) – 11 cases and B.1.617.2 (first detected in India) – 4 cases.”

“In addition, the B.1.351 (first detected here in South Africa) has been sequenced from a patient travelling from Bangladesh.”

The statement says, “The four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in Gauteng (2) and KwaZulu-Natal (2) and all have a history of a recent arrival from India. All cases have been isolated and managed according to national
COVID-19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been performed in order to limit the
spread of this variant.”

Regarding the variant first identified in the UK, the Department says, “Of the eleven cases of B.1.1.7, eight were detected in the Western Cape (with two having a history of travel from Bahrain), one was detected in KwaZulu-Natal and two were detected in Gauteng.”

Prof Puren says it’s a tough situation.

“As you note the variants are in circulation even though there are specific restrictions from various countries. The variants are in circulation, it’s really how we manage that particular scenario. For example, in the UK and other countries, it’s really either to have the results of PCR or either test, quarantine or isolate or test during that particular period and release those particular individuals.”

Prof Puren also says the country will experience new coronavirus variants in various geographic areas.

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EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June: Commissioner
9 May 2021, 7:00 PM

The European Union has not made any new orders for AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June when their contract ends, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Sunday, after the EU signed a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech.

Breton also said he expected the costs of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to be higher than the earlier versions.

The Commission last month launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.

“We did not renew the order after June. We will see what happens,” Breton told France Inter radio. He did not rule out a potential renewal at a later stage.

Concerns have risen on potential side-effects of the Anglo-Swedish COVID-19 vaccine.

Europe’s medicines regulator said on Friday it is reviewing reports of a rare nerve-degenerating disorder in people who received the shots, a move that comes after it found the vaccine may have caused very rare blood clotting cases.
While the regulator has maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risks, several European countries have limited use to older age groups or suspended use altogether.

In answer to a question at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the move towards what he sees are more effective vaccines against new variants of COVID-19, calling it “pragmatic”.

“We are vaccinating with this vaccine (AstraZeneca) in France and in Europe. We must continue to do this because it will help us get out of the crisis.” he said.

“But for future orders, in order to respond in particular to variants, we see that other vaccines are now more effective, so this signals a European pragmatism which I welcome.”

The European Union signed a new contract with Pfizer-BioNTech to receive 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19vaccines for 2021-2023, to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses, the European Commission said on Friday.

An increase in prices for second-generation vaccines could be justified by the extra research required and potential changes to industrial equipment, Breton said.

“There may be a little extra cost but I will let the competent authorities unveil it in due course,” he told France Inter radio.

ANC NEC hears claims that party on the verge of collapse
9 May 2021, 6:16 PM

The African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee has heard claims that the party is on the verge of collapse due to the implementation of the step aside resolution.

The NEC meeting has continued without the party’s suspended Secretary-General Ace Magashule.

He was removed from the virtual meeting yesterday. ANC MP Bongani Bongo, who is also facing fraud and corruption charges, was also removed from the meeting.

In some of the leaked audio from the ANC NEC meeting,  former President Thabo Mbeki has asked members whether the party still exists.

“Under very very serious challenges comrades a comrade says we need to meet say two three day retreat and the central point that comrade Bathabile made is this, that the movement is about to collapse. I’m saying comrade chair this question do we still have any organisation called the ANC ?”

ANC NEC member, Dakota Legoete, can also be heard in the leaked NEC discussions saying the party must deal decisively with corruption.

“This NEC if it was to have integrity, reputation in dealing with corruption I think those must also be probed because there are many of us in this meeting who are facing serious allegations of corruption. And I think for as long as we preside and become judges on our own cases it is not going to help this movement in dealing with corruption. We might single out the SG but there are many of us here who are even worse than him in terms of corruption. I don’t want to defend the SG I’m not a disloyal representative but I think it will only be fair that all corrupt elements in our movement, we must deal with them.”

The ANC has warned that any member of the party who leaks information to the media or the public without authorization could be found guilty of misconduct. The party has released a statement in reaction to the leaking of audio on Twitter of the virtual NEC meeting.

Political analyst Levy Ndou weighs in on the matter.:

ANC factional battles

Limpopo chairperson Stanley Mathabatha cautioned that three factions are now claiming to be the real ANC.

Mathabatha, in leaked audio from the NEC meeting, says this is a crucial time for the ANC.

“The President that we are having today is one of the best Presidents that we could ever find as the African National Congress and we must support him comrades. But now the problem that I see is the comrades who run around purporting to be defenders of our President. When they are running around dividing the African National Congress pursuing their personal and factional agendas in our provinces.”

 

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