Tag: government

Gauteng News: Government spends R3m on virtual events during lockdown.

The Gauteng Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Department has coughed up close to R3million on virtual commemorative events during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The events include Youth Day, Freedom Day, and Human Rights Day. The funds were distributed among service providers, musicians, comedians, ambassadors and fitness instructors.

According to The Star, the department indicated that the initial budget for the three events was R14m.

Over R2m was spent on Human Rights Day while close to R800000 was channelled to Freedom Day virtual celebrations. Youth Day expenses were not provided, with the department citing that payments were outstanding as the process of supply chain management and financial accounting were delayed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a State of Disaster last March prohibited gatherings. The president’s announcement altered the way national days were going to be celebrated and commemorated. Departments and institutions have since adopted the virtual method.

The DA’s Kingsol Chabalala questioned the importance of spending millions of rand on virtual events during a national crisis.

“The department under the leadership of the MEC continues to fail to prioritise issues in terms of their importance, as they throw money in a bottomless pit of unnecessary events that do not add value to the grassroots development of sports, arts and culture,” he said.

The department further spent R490000 on a Mandela Day programme, where they partnered with US TV channel Nickelodeon. Selected local young authors were also part of this celebration, and they were selected to read their published books.

“The use of this TV channel just also defies logic as it has a mass appeal among the very same audience the department was trying to reach. What is wrong with our TV channels which are accessible to everyone in the province?

“It is clear that the department is failing to address infrastructure development challenges that are riddling them, and yet in their wisdom money is being spent on these programmes that are insignificant. As the DA we won’t leave this matter. The MEC must account for how the programmes benefited our residents.”

The department has defended the spending as necessary.

Its spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana said that partnership with the TV channel was to showcase local talent in the province on a global scale.

“Mandela Day is a national day of goodwill, this year the department decided to spend it by focusing its attention on children, something that was dear to Madiba. So the department paid for the platforms their books would be profiled on,” she said.

US dancer JoJo Siwa was also part of the Mandela Day celebrations. Ntlokwana said the dancer was among the artists voted for by kids in the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. “The showcase was for the children and she is an entertainer the kids love. She is a positive role model for the kids in how she has conducted her career and continues to include kids within her brand,” she said.

Ntlokwana said the artist was not paid by the department, but was hired by the TV channel.

Source: The Star

News: IMF Loan – The money will be looted

The decision by the International International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) to give the nod for a $4.3 billion loan to South Africa has raised alarm from all corners of society, including political parties and civil groups.

Despite the country’s undesirable history with corruption and poor track record on accountability, the IMF said the funds would go towards aiding the country as it navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The RFI will help fill the urgent BOP (balance of payments) need originating from the fiscal pressures posed by the pandemic, limit regional spillovers, and catalyse additional financing from other international financial institutions”, it said in a statement on Monday, 27 July 2020

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who have been vocal about their disdain for international lenders, has slammed the decision to borrow the funds in the first place and said the IMF would impose conditions that undermine the country’s fiscal policy sovereignty.

“Government is borrowing money without a believable plan to deal with already uncontrollable debt or economic recovery”, the party’s Vuyani Pambo said in a statement.

The massive cash injection comes just a week after the country managed to secure another loan – for R5 billion from the African Development Bank, which the red berets have described as “the biggest political blunder in the history of South Africa

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the African National Congress’ (ANC) alliance partner is also not very optimistic about the loan, citing corruption as well as its lack of trust in the lender.

“They borrow money under these extreme conditions to go and loot. Look at the scandals we’re reading about recently…” said spokesperson Sizwe Phamla said on Enca.

Only the workers and the taxpayers are going to pay the price. Very little of this money will be spent where it matters most”, Phamla said.

Cosatu also said they were briefed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in an alliance meeting on the loan and added that he had explained to them that the loan was ‘special’, as the IMF had set aside the conditions usually applied in the granting of a loan.

 “We do not trust this institution and our understanding is that since this institution doesn’t accept physical collateral, it puts conditions first because it is a lender of last resort”,

Ramaphosa announced on Sunday, 26 July 2020, that he had signed an order empowering the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to look into corruption and fraud claims arising from the COVID-19 pandemic – all while his own spokesperson Khusela Diko is herself embroiled in a scandal over a PPE tender.

Government: Might use pensions to address some of its big issues.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni says that government is looking at a number of options to help fund the establishment of the ‘new SAA’, including the use of pension funds, Business Tech reported.

In an answering affidavit to a case filed by the Democratic Alliance, Mboweni said that government would not use state funds to rescue the bankrupt national airline.

Instead, other options on the table include seeking money from strategic partners or private equity, as well as tapping pension funds and global financial institutions.

While the DA has welcomed the commitment to not use state funds, it expressed concerns about the use of pensions.

“On the basis of Mboweni’s commitment we are satisfied that there is no need for an urgent hearing, although we remain on high alert for other illegitimate attempts to fund SAA,” the party said in a statement.

“However, Minister Mboweni’s affidavit, belatedly filed in response to the DA’s court challenge, raises new alarms about how SAA might be bailed out using other means.

Most worryingly, he suggests using pension funds to ‘invest’ in SAA, which raises the prospect of the Public Investment Corporation being forced to give money to SAA.

“The DA will oppose any publicly-funded bailout of SAA, whether through direct cash, government-guaranteed loans, or an attempt to abuse pension funds.”

Economists have also criticised the idea of using pensions to help fund the airline, which they said could require a change to Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act.

Changing regulations

In a proposal document published by the ANC’s Economic Transformation Committee at the start of July, the ruling party indicated that the use of pension funds will be key to helping the government address funding shortfalls in areas such as infrastructure development and energy production.

To achieve this, the ANC proposes changing regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act to boost the funding of infrastructure projects spearheaded by state development finance institutions (DFIs) using private capital.

Regulation 28 limits the extent to which retirement funds may invest in particular assets or in particular asset classes. The main purpose is to protect the members’ retirement provision from the effects of poorly diversified investment portfolios.

“Changes should be made to Regulation 28 under the Pension Funds Act to enable cheaper access to finance for development,” the ANC said.

“Furthermore, regulators should be vigilant to ensure increased competition in the banking sector, which frequently displays the kind of oligopolistic tendencies which limit access to finance particularly for SMME’s and for households in historically disadvantaged areas.”

The ANC said that the amendment of regulation 28 of the Pension Fund Act can also help DFIs to access private savings to fund long-term infrastructure and high-impact capital projects.

“In the meantime, the asset classes with the highest impact must be investigated, in line with the resolutions of the 54th National Conference,” it said

Government: Could introduce these new drinking laws

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health has agreed to formulate an ‘action plan’ around the issue of alcohol abuse in South Africa, Business Tech reported.

This follows a briefing from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) which found that the reintroduction of the sale of alcohol has led to a significant increase in trauma cases at the country’s hospitals.

Committee chairperson Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said that while relatively few South Africans consume alcohol, many of those who do, consume alcohol excessively.

He said that the committee is of the view that South Africa cannot continue to debate the gross domestic product (GDP) benefits of alcohol sales and not talk about ‘the costs of cleaning up’ after alcohol has been abused.

Hospital admissions, intensive care usage, gender-based violence and death all escalate as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, he said.

The committee has agreed to meet next week to formulate an action plan on the basis of the report.”

“This is in line with a letter sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly by a group of academics, researchers and policy specialists offering advice on steps to curb the abuse of alcohol in South Africa. The letter has since been referred to the committee for consideration.”

Policy changes

While the SAMRC’s presentation primarily focused on the impact of the coronavirus, an accompanying question paper developed by parliament’s internal research unit outlined some of the draft regulations which lawmakers should consider.

“South Africa needs to control alcohol in order to save lives, improve health, and strengthen the economy. This is possible given the listed three draft Bills that require deliberation in order to increase regulation,” the researchers said.

The three draft bills which have previously been mooted include:

  1. The Draft Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013;
  2. The Draft Traffic Amendment Bill of 2015;
  3. TheDraft Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017.

The Draft Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill primarily deals with advertising, including where alcohol may be sold, what times alcohol advertisements may be shown on TV, and who alcohol may be sold to.

The Draft Liquor Amendment Bill proposes much more wide-reaching changes including:

  1. Increasing the drinking age to 21 years;
  2. The introduction of a 100-metre radius limitation of trade around educational and religious institutions;
  3. Banning of any alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media;
  4. The introduction of new liability clause for alcohol-sellers.

Drunk-driving

The Traffic Amendment Bill has already been approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa and is set to be introduced before the end of 2020.

Alongside a number of other traffic-related offences, it will create a zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving.

It introduces a total prohibition for the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on South Africa’s public roads.

The National Road Traffic Act (NRA) currently enables those who have consumed alcohol to get behind the wheel provided they are under the blood alcohol limit.

These laws differentiate between normal drivers and professional drivers (those drivers who hold professional driving permits).

The new laws would make this limit zero in both cases.

 

News: Bread in SA may now stay fresher for longer .

After many years of lobbying, government has finally approved sorbic acid as an ingredient in local bread, Business Insider reported.

One of the most commonly used food preservatives in the world, it should keep local bread fresher for longer.

While the department of health approved the use of sorbic acid in all types of bread in February, it was finally gazetted last month:

New regulations to allow sorbic acid for use in all bread was gazetted last month by the department of health.

The use of sorbic acid should extend bread’s shelf life in South Africa by two to three days, says Geoff Penny, executive director of the South African Chamber of Baking, which represents the large bread producers.

Currently, a typical loaf of bread in South Africa usually lasts about five days. Sorbic acid should stretch it to more than a week.

Penny says the ingredient will have no impact on the taste, and does not have any side-effects.

It is, however, more expensive than the standard SA bread preservative, calcium propionate, and will probably add a couple of cents to the price of a loaf, says Penny. The bread producers may decide to absorb that cost.

A natural occurring compound, sorbic acid was isolated in 1859 in Germany, after a scientist distilled rowanberries. It was found to be highly effective at inhibiting the growth of mould and was then used to preserve white wines and meat.

A decade ago, the European Union and the UN’s food standards authority also approved it for use in bread.

It is not clear why South Africa’s department of health did not approve sorbic acid earlier, given that it’s already a standard ingredient elsewhere in the world, says Penny.

 It is also already allowed in other goods, including other baked products, in South Africa.

But the announcement does come at a good time: as bread will last longer, it should help to cut down shop visits during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Government: Engaging stakeholders on reopening of schools

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured South Africans that saving lives during this pandemic is important as government is set to engage stakeholders in the education sector on the reopening schools.

Interacting with communities across the nation through a virtual Presidential Imbizo on Coronavirus on Wednesday, the President said government will in the next few days engage parents, student organisations, unions as well as other organisations, on the matter of reopening schools.

“Once this had been done, we are going to assess what we have heard and discuss it with the medical advisory committee… in the light of what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. I think we will come to a positive and inclusive decision,” the President said.

The WHO recently warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the Coronavirus are on the rise.

The President said the decision to open schools was an inclusive decision even though some might not agree with it.

President said every life is important.

“We don’t focus on how many people should die first before we take a particular action. We are about saving lives and we are also about preserving livelihoods. Our strategy is not based on the number of lives of people who must die.”

“We are going to sit back and listen carefully to all the key role-players about the re-opening of schools. Losing an academic year cannot be weighed up against the lives of the people we must lose. If we have to get to a point of closing schools, that will be the decision,” President Ramaphosa said.

Analysts: Plans to introduce NHI in South Africa will not work

The Institute for Race Relations (IRR) has criticised president Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent calls to introduce universal healthcare coverage and a National Health Insurance (NHI) system in South Africa, Business Tech reported.

Ramaphosa has said that the global Covid-19 pandemic crisis has starkly highlighted the value of universal health coverage in responding to health emergencies, and the need for robust health systems to save lives.

“Let us lay the foundation for National Health Insurance so that all people have access to the quality health care they need regardless of their ability to pay,” he said in a national address on Sunday (12 July).

However, the IRR said that the claim of  ‘quality healthcare’ for all is deceiving when the same government is responsible for failures in the existing public health system.

“To begin with, South Africa already has an extensive public health system charged with delivering quality healthcare, particularly to the vulnerable and the poor, but it is failing, and costing lives,” it said.

“Instances of grievous mismanagement, and of patients or loved ones enduring what can only be described as inhumane treatment, are commonplace. These are symptoms of chronic government failure.”

The IRR said that the government should instead focus on solutions that will guarantee quality healthcare in the public sector, rather than merely ‘importing into NHI’ everything that is wrong with the system it mismanages today.

“The NHI is not a cure-all  in fact, it is likely to be worse than the disease it is trying to cure: too many South Africans not having access to quality healthcare,” said the IRR’s deputy head of Policy Research Hermann Pretorius.

“If government-run healthcare has shown South Africans one thing, it is that government cannot successfully run healthcare.”

No evidence that the NHI will be different

This view was echoed by analysts in an interview with The Citizen.

Unisa professor and political analyst Lesiba Teffo said that the planned healthcare insurance will likely fail, judging from how state-owned enterprises performed.

If you want to add onto that another state-owned enterprise, one cannot say the government can do better. Some of the reasons for the collapse of the healthcare system is that it is not well managed,” he said.

A lack of engagement between provincial health departments, and private doctors, prevented a working partnership between the public and private sector, said the South African Medical Association.

The collapse is also due to inefficient structures within the system, and poor leadership in hospital management, which affected the current handling of the pandemic.

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

GOVERNMENT: Cybercrimes Bill and rules around the messages you can send.

The National Council of Provinces approved a bill at its sitting on Wednesday (1 July) most notably the Cybercrimes Bill.

Originally introduced in 2017, the Cybercrimes Bill focuses on criminalising the theft and interference of data and bringing South Africa’s cyber security laws in line with the rest of the world.

The objectives of the bill are among others to:

  • Create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cyber crime;
  • To criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful and;
  • To provide for interim protection orders;
  • To further regulate jurisdiction in cyber crime.
  • The bill further aims to regulate the powers to investigate cyber crimes;
  • to further regulate aspects relating to mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cyber crimes and;
  • to provide for the establishment of a 24/7 point of contact.

“The bill also impose obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cyber crimes. It also provides that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cyber security.”

Some of the online messages which are covered under the bill include:

  • A message which incites damage to property or violence;
  • A message which threatens persons with damage to property or violence;
  • A message which unlawfully contains an intimate image.

 

Link to the Cybercrimes Bill

https://pmg.org.za/bill/684/

 

Source: BusinessTech

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

GOVERNMENT: SASSA sends lifeline to rejected COVID-19 grant applicants

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has given a lifeline to all rejected applicants of the R350 Covid-19 special grant.

“In early June, close to 50% of processed applications did not qualify in terms of the criteria. Over 70% of those that did not qualify were either receiving or qualifying for UIF benefits, according to the database that Sassa was using then to sift through the applications.

“Subsequently, Sassa took a decision to request an updated database to reconsider the declined UIF cases, instead of advising the aggrieved applicants to follow the appeals route,” said Letsatsi.

Letsatsi said it has also emerged that 85% of the UIF cases, which were previously deemed not to qualify, actually do qualify.

More than 2.5 million applicants have already been paid so far from over 3.2 million who applied for the Covid-19 grant.

Sassa CEO Totsie Memela said: “Updating the UIF database has brought such a relief to us and the affected beneficiaries. The numbers will rise daily until we have paid all deserving individuals who were previously declined.”

 

Photo Credit: SASSA

COVID-19: Gauteng approves 4.9% hospital tariff increase.

The Gauteng provincial legislature’s committee on scrutiny of subordinate legislation has approved regulations which gives effect to the annual adjustment fee of 4.9% for hospital tariffs, according to News24.

The adjusted fee is on services payable by patients at provincial hospitals, mortuaries and for ambulance services, according to a statement issued on behalf of the chairperson of the committee Dulton Adams.

The amended regulations, which were presented by the Gauteng Department of Health will come into effect from 1 July.

“In approving these adjustments, the committee took into consideration the current unfavourable economic environment brought about by Covid-19 and its impact on ordinary citizens as well as the need for the provincial government to generate revenue in order to strengthen its capacity to provide much needed healthcare services,” Adams said.

He said the committee noted that the fee adjustments were necessary to ensure public hospitals had the necessary resources to function effectively.

However, not all patients would be subjected to paying for these services, he said.

Patients exempt from paying for healthcare services include:

  1. Children under six
  2. Pregnant women – social pensioners
  3. Any persons receiving social grants
  4. Formally unemployed people

“In terms of the approved regulations, all foreign nationals are classified as fully paying patients except for refugees with valid documents.”

Source: News24

Photo Credit: Unsplash

About Tame Times

Providing readers with informative and exciting news, tame TIMES is the fastest growing independent newspaper stable servicing Johannesburg South and Ekurhuleni areas....

Get in Touch