Tag: Lockdown

News: DA calls on Ramaphosa to lift Covid-19 lockdown curfew, open borders

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to end the curfew imposed in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, open all sectors of the South African economy, and allow for international travel and reintroduce a normal school week.

“Lockdown restrictions must be ended entirely and immediately, with the exception of mass gatherings in confined spaces. This severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis. We simply cannot afford the luxury of blanket restrictions on economic activity,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen.

“Rather, government should trust people to take individual responsibility in line with clear safety guidelines. The lockdown has devastated South Africa’s economy, causing immense suffering, including widespread hunger. It has increased, rather than decreased, risk for millions of households, and aggravated inequality, including educational inequality.”

Steenhuisen said the country now faces the prospect of a deep and prolonged depression as debt spirals out of control.

“Respected scientists, such as vaccinology Professor Shabir Mahdi and Dr Glenda Gray, both members of government’s ministerial advisory committee, have advised that lockdown is not serving any useful purpose and should be ended, with the exception of large gatherings in confined spaces,” said Steenhuisen.

He said in calling for a full opening of the South African economy and schools, the DA is not denying the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, “even though the scientific consensus is that this risk is low”.

“Rather, we believe that the risk posed to households by a deep and prolonged depression is far greater on balance. Furthermore, the recovery rate for those infected is now much higher than some months ago, while societal behaviour change and a build-up of herd immunity are both serving to considerably slow the rate of transmission, which was the original purpose of lockdown,” said Steenhuisen.

“We need to get back to work, to school, and to our lives – and we need to do it safely. But we need to do more than that. We also need to agree as a society to back the economic reforms that can get our economy growing again, and that can roll back poverty, unemployment and inequality.

“These include urgently opening up the energy market to enable a reliable, affordable power supply and auctioning spectrum to bring down data costs, as well as opening the labour market for small business, to boost job creation.

“And finally, we must walk away from investment-killing policies such as NHI (national health insurance), EWC (expropriation without compensation), asset prescription and SARB (SA Reserve Bank) nationalisation.”

Steenhuisen said “poverty is a deadly pandemic in its own right requiring decisive action from our government that has so far not been forthcoming”.

Speculation is rife that President Cyril Ramaphosa will this week address the nation and announce a further easing of lockdown restrictions to level 1.

News: Learn lockdown lessons and save money

As the lockdown eases it may be tempting to get back to what was once normal as quickly as possible, but a moment of reflection before you do may be worthwhile and could save you money.

Shafeeqah Isaacs, head of consumer education at financial services provider DirectAxis, says that while the lockdown has had many negative consequences, not least for the economy, there may be some useful lessons we can take into the new normal.

The hard lockdown, with its prohibitions on unnecessary travel, eating out, socialising, leisure activities, alcohol and cigarettes, potentially gave people some insight into what they could cut back on or live without and save some money as a result.

“We’re certainly not saying you should live your life like you’re in lockdown, but rather consider whether the enforced cutbacks meant you weren’t spending as much each month. Then think about whether giving up smoking, eating out less regularly or not having your friends over every weekend might mean having more money at the end of the month.”

For people who’ve been working from home during lockdown, a move back to the office might mean a nice change of scenery and a chance to catch up with colleagues but could also impact their back pockets.

Obvious work-from-home savings are commuting costs, reduced spending on coffees and lunches and, for some, the need to maintain a five-day-a-week professional wardrobe. Of course, these need to be balanced against the costs of running a home office, such as connectivity and data, and whether your employer is prepared to contribute to these.

While there’s plenty of information on the benefits of working from home, both for employers and employees, it’s hard to find any definitive studies on how much a South African office worker could save. A US study estimates these savings to be about $4 000 a year for American workers. It is probably less than the equivalent +/- R70 000 in South Africa, where the practice is less well established.

There may be other less obvious savings. For example, if both you and your partner or spouse are working from home, do you really need two cars? Selling one would save not only vehicle finance repayments but also insurance and maintenance.

“Before you rush out to get your post-lockdown life back, it’s worth thinking about how it could benefit you financially if there are some things you can live without or cut back on.”

If you do apply some lockdown lessons and are able to save a bit each month, consider what you are going to do with the additional disposable income, says Shafeeqah.

“It’s all too easy to blow it on things you don’t really need. By all means give yourself some reward, but perhaps consider using the rest to pay off your debts faster.”

At a prime rate of 7% South Africa’s interest rates are the lowest they have been in half a century. This means that it’s a good opportunity to reduce what you owe and potentially save some money over the long term.

For example, if you have a five-year, R250 000 loan at 12% interest for five years and you pay off an additional R500 a month you’ll reduce the term of the loan by six months and save R9 707,90.

“Think of it as an investment in yourself,” says Shafeeqah.

Source: Meropa

Krugersdorp News: Man arrested for 2 cartons of cigarettes during lockdown – case acquitted.

A 42-year-old Krugersdorp man who spent hours behind bars after being arrested for being in possession of sealed cigarettes during the lockdown has been acquitted in a test case brought by AfriForum, TimesLive reported.

Andries Hennop was cleared on Friday after his arrest on May 22. He was stopped during a roadblock in Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, where traffic officers found two cartons of cigarettes in his possession.

“Police officers who arrested me said I was being arrested because the cigarettes had been closed and this was not allowed,” he said.

The dental technician had maintained his innocence since his arrest, as he argued the cigarettes had been purchased before the ban.

According to TimesLive, he described his three-month court battle as a victory and “an affirmation of the wrongful arrest”. 

“It’s just an affirmation of what I’ve always know, that my arrest was unlawful … I am glad it’s all over now”.

He recalled how his arrest and subsequent court appearances affected his business and family.

“It was bad. My wife had to run around to try find bail money, my kids didn’t take it well as they are very sensitive and we’ve always had an open-book policy … you can imagine with the business as well, it was lockdown, things were not going well already and something like this came through as well,” he said.

Hennop is now considering civil action.

“I think that even though I’ve always said the police officers do good work, but they have to know the law. It does not help to have someone in uniform, wearing a badge and not knowing what the laws are. At the end of the day, that’s the one thing I hope comes out of this. At least there will one or two officers who know better about the law before they act on anything.”

Marnus Kamfer, AfriForum’s legal and risk manager, described Hennop’s acquittal as a victory for the country.

“This is a major victory for the citizens of SA over the unfair behaviour of members of the law enforcement authorities, who hide behind alleged violations of the lockdown regulations,” said Kamfer.

“The SAPS warned its members during the lockdown to use great care when they execute arrests during the lockdown. Members were also warned that they would be held personally responsible for any costs that the SAPS will have to incur as a result of claims that are instituted successfully against the SAPS by aggrieved citizens. We would like to see that the respective members pay the price, instead of the taxpayer having the worst of it because of members’ unlawful behaviour,” Kamfer added.

News: Revised Lockdown Level to be discussed by government

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) will soon be advised on the revision of the imposed Covid-19 national lockdown measures as provinces record a decline in infection rates.

This was revealed by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday as he provided an update on the state of the government’s fight against the pandemic.

Mkhize said Gauteng, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape were currently displaying a consistent trend in the decline of infections, with other provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal also expected to reach their peak soon.

Mkhize said Ramaphosa had asked him and his team to table recommendations before the NCCC on what would be the next best steps to be taken by South Africa going forward.

“So, we will be tabling recommendations to the NCCC. At some point during the course of next week, we should be able to get further guidance from the NCCC and the president,” Mkhize said.

Around 521318 Covid-19 positive cases had been confirmed by on Wednesday noon, with up to 8884 deaths recorded.

Gauteng remained the epicentre with 183090 cases or 35.1% of SA’s total cases, with 2268 deaths, followed by Western Cape with 97261 infections and 3245 deaths, while the Eastern Cape recorded 79844 infections and 1832 deaths.

“Most of the parts of the country, except KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces, have really pretty much reached the peak points and this peak point is likely to continue in KZN and the other provinces. However, it will be at a slightly lower level although the numbers of each province will still be very high,” Mkhize said.

He cautioned that the risk of a second surge remained and said that the public should continue to adhere to health protocols such as wearing masks, sanitising and washing of hands, maintaining social distancing and avoiding public gatherings.

“Until we are completely safe, we will keep reviewing restrictions and if necessary restrictions will still remain in place,” he said.

He also revealed that around 24104 health-care workers had been infected by the virus, with 181 of them having been confirmed as having died from it.

Mkhize said he had received reports that some of the health-care workers were dying after being infected because of failure or neglect by management to adhere to prescribed workplace safety protocols, which allegedly led to the death of a doctor at George Mukhari Academic Hospital, whose working conditions have been described as unsafe.

He added that he had now appointed a team of medical, nursing and legal professionals, led by Professor Taole Mokoena, to conduct an urgent investigation into the hospital and table a report in 14 days.

“I want to assure members of the public that if individuals entrusted with positions of power in health facilities or even at the district level are found to be in dereliction of duty by not ensuring adherence with health protocols, appropriate action will be taken against them,” Mkhize said.

 

Source: Political Bureau

Lockdown News: Liquor stores will soon start losing licences.

A sequence of hard commercial decisions by small, independent liquor stores around South Africa, and their landlords, is about to create a regulatory nightmare that will outlast the coronavirus crisis, liquor traders are warning, Business Insider reported.

If they’re right, the result will be a mass closing down of legal bottle stores, especially in the more far-flung parts of South Africa. Then, when alcohol retail becomes legal again, those bottle stores will be replaced by unlicensed shebeens operating outside of the tax net, and without regard for rules intended to curb alcohol abuse over the long term.

 According to Business Insider, bottle stores are currently trying to figure out if they can (and should) pay their rent, say people in the industry, while not knowing when they may be allowed to sell again, and for how long prohibition will be lifted this time around.

The calculation is a complex one, and unique to each small business. Should staff be paid first, in part or in full? How much capital will be required to start from scratch, and is it better to hoard available cash to do so? How much stock is about to reach its sell-by date, and is it better to leave that for liquidators to worry about, if it comes to that? Will landlords be sympathetic?

But with every day of lost trade and ongoing uncertainty, more and more stores are failing to pay their rent.

Even sympathetic landlords can’t just let that slide, traders say; they are following their rights, which end in selling off stock and shop fittings to recover what is owed, and clearing out space for new tenants, if any can be found.

Before that comes invalidating leases for non-payment, which is where regulations come in. Liquor store licences are tethered to specific premises for reasons that include keeping them away from schools. An invalid lease means an invalid liquor licence, which at the very least will require a lot of paperwork to sort out.

Though they won’t say so on the record, for fear of making things even harder, bottle store owners are darkly amused at the idea that provincial governments (which control retail licences) will be able to process such paperwork expeditiously.

They also won’t talk directly about what owners and workers are likely to do in such circumstances, but the unspoken expectation is clear enough: the legal trade will simply become an illegal one, with a flourishing of unlicensed shebeens.

Operating outside the law has its commercial attractions, notably not paying tax. It also comes with disadvantages that include not having access to formal finance for expansion, and the threat of losing everything in a raid.

In 2020, one trade points out, booze merchants have learnt that they could lose everything anyway, through what they see as capricious government action.

Lockdown News: Insurance companies will now make a once off payment after regulator steps in.

In a joint statement, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority and the Prudential Authority announced that they had come to an agreement with insurance firms to provide interim relief while the legal battle over lockdown claims rages in the courts, Business Insider reported.

“This interim relief will take the form of once off payments to policyholders to enable them to continue running their businesses while waiting for the outcome of the legal process,” said the FSCA in a statement.

 Crucially, policyholders won’t need to pay the money back, even if the insurers win in court. And, should the courts decide in favour of policyholders, then the money will be deducted from the total claim.

The regulator said it was concerned about the damage to the industry’s reputation after insurers have refused to pay out for lockdown claims under business interruption extensions.

The exact size of this payout will be left up to each insurer and has not been announced yet. However, in an email to brokers seen by Business Insider, insurance company Hollard said their payments will be capped at R200,000 per policy.

The company said it expected to “make payments to more than one thousand such businesses in order to alleviate some of the financial burden these businesses are facing”.

However, the payouts will only be going to smaller businesses. To qualify, Hollard’s clients must have “an annual turnover of R25m or less”. In addition, they need to show that they’ve suffered “a reduction in revenue of 30% or more in the period 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2020 compared to the average income over the previous 12 months”.

It’s also likely that some of these insurers won’t be able to claim these so-called ex gratia payments back from their own reinsurers, says Jan Wink, managing director of Incompass Insurance Consultants, a boutique hospitality insurance group. That means they’ll be paying out of their own pockets, which could financially cripple some of these insurance companies, he says.

After being unable to do business for months, restaurants, bars, hotels and guesthouses are demanding that their insurers pay out business interruption claims for the financial harm they suffered while being under lockdown. Some business interruption policies include cover for contagious diseases.

However, some big insurance companies, like Santam and HIC, are hesitant to pay out, claiming that the income losses stem from the government-induced lockdown, and not from the disease itself. Some insurers are willing to pay out for localised outbreaks of Covid-19, such as the forced closure of a restaurant due to coronavirus cases, but don’t want to pay out for the general loss of income due to the lockdown.

Hundreds of their policyholders – led by Insurance Claims Africa (ICA) – are threatening a class action lawsuit. Santam is already being sued by two of its clients for its refusal to pay out business interruption claims, and the case will be heard on 1 September in the Western Cape High Court.

“We applaud the regulatory authorities for calling the meeting with insurers and for ensuring claimants, who are in an extremely vulnerable financial position, are treated fairly,” said Ryan Woolley, CEO of ICA.

However, he was sceptical about the difference the payments would make to policyholders.

“While the interim payment could provide some relief for these businesses, it will be critical to understand what this relief will entail,” he said. “From what we have seen thus far, it appears that the size of the interim relief is a small percentage of what the claimants are owed.  To term this a lifeline, would be an exaggeration.”

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Lockdown News: Stun grenades and water cannons used to disperse peaceful protesters

Employees from various hospitality and restaurant businesses held various protests across South Africa on Friday. The protests were to raise their objections to some of the Covid-19 restrictions.

The action comes two days after another countrywide protest by restaurants where thousands took to the streets to call on the government to lift the curfew and do away with the ban on smoking and alcohol.

In Cape Town, stun grenades and water cannons were used to disperse protesters marching in Roeland and Plein Streets outside Parliament. They were carrying posters reading “#JobsSaveLives” and “#ServeUsPlease”.

At least four people were arrested. SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said, “Please be advised that Public Order Police took action to dispersed a group of about 200 people who were protesting earlier. Four men aged between 24 and 59 were arrested and were given fines for contravening of Disaster Management Act regulations.”

On Friday, Ashleigh Perremore, an organiser of the “Serve Us Please” movement said, “The aim is to show solidarity within the hospitality, tourism, food and liquor industry … we are not going to just sit down and let them kill our industries.”

Police arresting one of the protesters on Friday. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Perremore joined hundreds of protesters who lined up outside Parliament in Cape Town city centre while maintaining social distancing.

Police arrived in numbers and informed the group that the gathering was illegal under the disaster management act. When protesters refused to disperse, police used water canons and stun grenades. Police then started patrolling the city centre telling everyone to “clear the area”, but protesters remained in scattered groups.

We were completely peaceful and posed no threat,” said Kyle Bownes. “We just want our voices heard. We’re a massive group of civilians who have not worked for four months. We’ve had no income,” he said.

Bownes was a manager at The Stack, a restaurant in the Gardens. He said that he temporarily closed before lockdown started in March. Two weeks ago, they permanently closed and 30 people lost their jobs. Bownes said that there has been no sign of the UIF mentioned by President Ramaphosa. “When are we going to work again?” he asked.

Western Cape ministers of Community Safety, Albert Fritz and Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier condemned what they described as the heavy-handed and unwarranted response to the reportedly peaceful protesters.

“It is absurd that SAPS and the SANDF are not able to fully mobilise enough resources to respond adequately to violent protests in areas which are experiencing looting, public violence, land invasions, destruction of property and barricading of roads; and yet they are able to mobilise water cannons and stun grenades at the drop of a hat to disperse peaceful protests,” Fritz said.

Hundreds of people lined the street near Parliament to raise their objections to some of the Covid-19 restrictions. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Maynier said, “Our tourism and hospitality industry is hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have repeatedly called for the opening of these businesses where they are able to do so safely and responsibly.

Instead of a constructive and common-sense response, the tourism and hospitality sector has been subject to flip flopping and unnecessary use of violence in response to a peaceful protest … These businesses can open safely and they should be allowed to do so.”

In Johannesburg, about 80 people formed a human chain using ribbons on the corner of Maude and Rivonia Street in Sandton. Some protesters held placards which read: “One million jobs, not one million graves” and “#Iamtourism”.

 

About 80 people from the tourism and hospitality industry formed a human chain using ribbons on the corner of Maude and Rivonia Street in Sandton. Photo: Zoë Postman

Picketer, Yves Kadilo, has worked as a bartender for three years. “For the government to tell us that we must only operate using delivery while kids are going to school and taxis are operating at 100% capacity, doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Kadilo said the tourism and hospitality industry employed millions of people indirectly like plumbers and other service providers. “Everything was put on hold during the lockdown which left people without jobs,” he said.

“I have a family that solely depends on me but now with Covid-19, they say no sale of alcohol. What does that mean for me and my family?” he asked.

Kadilo said bartending was about more than just the money, he said. “People come to me for entertainment … It’s like theatre for us to display our craft but now there is no stage.”

The police arrived at about 11am and asked protesters to disperse.

 

Lockdown News: What will happen to your contract when the gyms reopen?

Virgin Active and Planet Fitness members should note the impact that the COVID-19 lockdown will have on the remaining duration of their contracts.

As part of regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19, South African gyms have been closed since the start of the lockdown on 27 March 2020.

This has forced the country’s two biggest gyms, Virgin Active and Planet Fitness,to freeze memberships and stop their members’ monthly debit orders.

Virgin Active

Virgin Active automatically froze all membership contracts on 27 March, the first day of the national lockdown.

The gym told MyBroadband that no revisions would be made to the contract term for memberships, and the end date would remain the same as per the contract.

The industry has established and submitted to the government a set of protocols which would enable it to open safely at level 3, however, gyms are currently scheduled to reopen at level 1 and could therefore remain closed for an extended period.”

Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness confirmed to My Broadband, that its members’ contracts will be extended by the number of months that the contract is frozen.

“Standard rules are that when a contact is frozen, then the term of the membership is extended by that same amount of time,” it stated.

Most of its memberships are between 12- or 24-months. The vast majority of these are out of the minimum duration and for those memberships there will be no impact, Planet Fitness noted.

We have also submitted our own communication together with Virgin Active, who were mandated to represent the industry and to date, we are still in the dark as we have not had any feedback at all – no communication has been forthcoming.”

“We have now requested a meeting with the Minister of Sport and his department to discuss the protocols we are proposing and the way forward,” Planet Fitness told My Broadband.

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Lockdown: Oldest Pub in SA Closes its doors.

The Perseverance Tavern was established in Buitenkant Street by Johannes Blesser in the year 1808, in the heart of “The Tavern of the Seas”, as Cape Town was known.

But 212 years later, management has now announced its staff will be retrenched, as alcohol sales remain banned – with no end in sight, News24 reported.

“It’s brutal. With every day that goes by, more and more establishments are shutting up shop,” said owner James Charton of the impact of the lockdown.

He believed it to be “unfair that the hospitality industry has been so targeted” by the national government – and widespread job losses and closures were the inevitable impact.

Outside the famous watering hole on Tuesday, a group of homeless people had taken up new residence of the tavern’s outside seating area – not long ago home to busy trade and cheer.

Charton said of the sight: “One can see just how quickly these old, historic buildings start to show signs of neglect when you are not there trading every day. The situation outside really brings to life the economic realities of the city and the country at large, and are a stark reminder of how bad things are.

“At least our tables are bringing some shelter from the harsh Cape winter to those most in need, I suppose.”

“The Percy”, as the pub is known by many, is famous for dishes such as “Calf’s Head Soup”, “Bubble n Squeak” and “a bowl of flip with West Indian ruhm”.

 

History of  The Perseverance Tavern

Between 1792 and 1850, whale hunting was in full cry, and whale, seal and penguin meat were favourite fare.

Charton and his partners bought the pub four years ago, when it came on the market.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own the oldest pub in South Africa,” Charton said simply.

But the diktats surrounding Covid-19 took a heavy toll.

First, on 15 March, with reduced trading hours, then the hard lockdown of 27 March.

“Our message to our staff in March was we would take care of them through the initial three-week period,” Charton explained.

“The UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and TERS (Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme) helped us extend the help to staff through the three-month period, in April, May and June.

“Our thinking was that, at the end of the three months, we’d be moving towards an on-consumption licence again. We have been holding on for that.

“But with the latest alcohol ban, we have had to take this painful decision.”

Already, waitering staff have had “brutal” knocks to their livelihoods – especially from tips. Now the UIF and TERS schemes have run out too.

Retrenched

Twenty staff will now be permanently retrenched, Charton explained.

And there was also a social cost, he believed.

“From what I’ve seen, people crave contact – while behaving responsibly. There’s a deep need for humans to connect socially. A pub has always done a great job of that.”

Charton warned that businesses would continue to close – as they reached the end of their ability to cope.

 

 https://www.instagram.com/p/BLI3Z7-Ad_p/?igshid=1wh5aajod5rxd

Photo Credit: J Hamel Instagram

Inspiration: Beautiful sidewalk food garden hopes to feed passers by during lockdown

Public food gardens are becoming a welcomed sight in many communities; they offer a source of food for people who may be too proud to ask for help.

The Ikhala Trust in Port Elizabeth is celebrating a sidewalk garden in Melville, Johannesburg. The trust shared the image of a sidewalk lined with eight raised beds.

Sidewalk gardens are a great way to offer help to others while allowing people to remain anonymous in their need. For some, asking for help can be a point of pride.

Back in 2017, Good Things Guy shared the story of Johan Scott, a retired policeman from Heidelberg, South Africa who started a vegetable garden on his pavement after his cauliflower was stolen. He realised that there were people that are hungry in his neighbourhood, so he decided to cultivate an even bigger garden on his pavement to feed more people. The story went viral because it was such a simple act of kindness.

These days, more people are in need than ever before so the concept of a sidewalk garden is even more appealing than ever before. Many are collaborating together to start food gardens as a way to feed entire communities and they are the stories we are loving.

Ikhala Trust hopes that everyone will do something; to start where they are and each person to try feed one person.

A group dedicated to Sidewalk Food Gardens SA has been launched where people are celebrating each other and the gardens they see all over South Africa. If you have a garden or know of one, you can join the group here.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/282066233085016/?ref=share

 

 

Source: Goodthingsguy

Photo Credit: Ikhala Trust/ Goodthingsguy

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