South Africa

CORONAVIRUS WEEKLY DIGEST #21

Parliament questions roll-out plan, matrics celebrate success and billions allocated to vaccines for years to come

Parliament questions roll-out plan, matrics celebrate success and billions allocated to vaccines for years to come
Compilation image by Sahra Heuwel.

This week, the government’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plan came under fire in Parliament as well as the National Council of Provinces. The 2021 Budget set out the financial way forward for the next three years, while unemployment reached a new high. And the matric class of 2020 celebrated their success.

Budgeting for a pandemic: What the 2021 Budget says

The 2021 Budget cuts R264,9-million in expenditure over the next three years in order to fund Covid-19 vaccines and mass public employment programmes. In terms of vaccines, R9-billion has been set aside, with R5,85-million available immediately. 

However, social grants increased on average by 1.6%. This translates into a R30 increase for pensions, R15 for child grants, R30 for disability grants and R10 for foster care grants. About 18 million people receive these grants.

Marianne Merten sets out the numbers and their implications. 

Read more: Mboweni’s ‘sun behind the clouds’ shrouds a precarious balancing act premised on politically tricky assumptions 

Read more: Civil society organisations condemn Mboweni’s ‘sugar-coated’ austerity Budget 2021

Associates of health minister linked to contract worth millions

On Tuesday, 23 February, a Scorpio investigation revealed that two close associates of Health Minister Zweli Mkhize consulted for a communications company contracted by the Department of Health during the Covid-19 pandemic. The contracts are worth more than R82-million. The department denies a conflict of interest but is investigating the matter. Read Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s report here.

Opposition parties raise the red flag over Parliament’s lack of vaccination plan oversight

Opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party and the African Transformation Movement voiced concern about Parliament’s lack of knowledge of the government’s vaccination plan during a debate on the roll-out in the National Assembly on Tuesday, 23 February. The ANC countered that there is a plan, which is well under way.

Mkhize announced that another batch of 80,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would arrive on Saturday, 27 February, and that most of the “teething problems” in administering the vaccine have been resolved. Read more here.

Private sector can procure vaccines from the government

On Thursday, the Department of Health presented a vaccine roll-out and acquisition plan to the National Council of Provinces. The delegates’ main concerns were over why the government is the sole procurer of vaccines and where this left the private sector in the roll-out. Mkhize and Health Department director-general Dr Anban Pillay said the private sector could procure vaccines from the government and get contracts for storing and distributing vaccines.

In the same briefing, the MECs of Health reported back on the progress of their roll-out. Read more here.

Makhura foresees a full recovery for Gauteng

In his state of the province address, Gauteng Premier David Makhura acknowledged the enormous toll the pandemic has taken on lives, livelihoods and provincial projects and plans. He applauded the province’s response and said the “Growing Gauteng Together” plan would be adjusted and pursued. Zukiswa Pikoli outlines the plans he put forward. 

It will take two years to rebuild Durban’s economy

Over 6,000 companies closed and 304,459 people lost their jobs between April and June 2020 in eThekwini, according to its chief strategy officer Adrian Peters. He estimated that it would take about two years for the metropolitan municipality’s economy to recover to pre-pandemic levels. As Zukiswa Pikoli writes, Peters was speaking during a webinar on the impact the pandemic has had on metros. 

Pandemic pushes unemployment to a record high

South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020, which was a 1.7% rise from the third quarter of 2020. This means 701,000 more people were unemployed between the quarters and the total is now 7.2-million. The situation worsened despite most of the economy being open in that quarter. As Ray Mahlaka writes, this suggests that the labour market faces “permanent and worrying damage”.

Class of 2020 get their results

The pass rate for the matric Class of 2020 is 76.2%, a drop from 2019’s record 81.3% pass rate. Nonetheless, more pupils achieved a bachelor pass and a higher proportion came from non-fee paying schools, according to Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga. She praised the class of 2020 for the good results achieved under tough circumstances. As Ayanda Mthethwa writes, the department has vowed to use the lessons from 2020 to be better prepared for this year.

Read more: Campaign calls for SA to talk about the pupils who dropped out of school

Read more: The pandematriculants who nailed it

Read more: The metrics of matric: How the Class of 2020 actually fared, province by province

Read more: Covid-19 triggering surge of absenteeism in SA schools

Back-and-forth over approval of an antibody test delays results

GroundUp reported this week that a to-and-fro between the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, Roche and the National Health Laboratory Service has meant the results of antibody testing in five provinces cannot be released. Earlier this month, these results were published for the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal but not for the Western Cape, Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The two groups used similar testing machines – however, the one is already approved and the other not. The request for approval was made in 2020. So why the delay? James Stent explains. MC/DM.

 

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.