In a press briefing on the 5th of August, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new cabinet after conducting an intense cabinet reshuffle. This reshuffle which comes after South Africa has faced a plethora of health and security challenges includes appointments of 10 new ministers and 11 deputy ministers.
Thandi Modise, the National Assembly speaker, was named as the new defense minister. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, widely respected COVID-19 management strategy was replaced by his deputy Joe Phaahla on the grounds of alleged corruption scandals involving COVID funds. Development Bank of Southern Africa’s (DBSA.UL) chair, Enoch Godongwana replaced Tito Mboweni as Finance Minister. On new appointments, Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo was appointed as the new deputy minister of health, Zizi Kodwa as deputy minister in the presidency responsible for State Security, Zoleka Capa as deputy minister of agriculture, rural development, and land reform amongst others.
When questioned on the reason behind the cabinet reshuffle, President Cyril stated, “This is to ensure that the country’s domestic and foreign intelligence services more effectively enable the president to exercise his responsibility to safeguard the security and integrity of the nation,” Ramaphosa, who took office in 2018 is focused on his pledge to reform and revive an ailing economy, attract foreign investors and crack down on corruption.
Following the nationwide protests that broke out after ex-President Jacob Zuma was sentenced to a 15-months prison sentence on corruption allegations. At least 212 people have died in the unrest, including some in shopping-center stampedes. Thousands of businesses were looted and destroyed over several days, forcing the government to deploy 25,000 soldiers to help restore order. Most of the rioting and looting has been concentrated in Mr. Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, where South Africa’s economic capital Johannesburg and political capital Pretoria are located. Approximately 3,000 stores were looted, 100 shopping malls suffered significant fire damage, and almost 1,200 retailer outlets were impacted and damaged. The city of Durban alone has estimated over $1 billion in damages and lost goods, which, along with 129,000 jobs at risk, could amount to a $1.4 billion hit to the port city’s gross domestic product. This poses additional strain to South Africa’s already fragile COVID economy.
Robert Besseling, CEO of political risk consultancy Pangea-Risk spoke extensively on the issue saying, “To put this into perspective, retail trade and production accounts for about 20 percent of gross domestic product, or almost $70 billion, of which $14 billion may have been lost, according to estimates by local banks. Moreover, the impact on poor communities will be disproportionate, since most looted stores and malls are close to townships. These communities will now struggle to find nearby groceries and supplies, even while Covid-19 lockdowns remain in place.”
However, as the looting and unrest have simmered down, private businesses and citizens are already taking steps to rebuild the country. A volunteer group that started on Tuesday has already attracted nearly 27,000 members willing to clean up looted shopping malls, donate money, and transport food. Economists have estimated that the cost to the national economy from the destruction caused is $3.43 billion. The government is now preparing to put strategies in place and partnerships with private organizations to restart the economy and safeguard livelihoods better
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker sets World Swimming Record at Olympics
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker set a world record in women’s 200-meter breaststroke in the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics game. Schoenmaker, 24, won the women’s 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2 minutes, 18.95 seconds, breaking the mark of 2:19.11 set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona thereby becoming the first woman ever to swim under two minutes nineteen seconds. Tatjana’s win was South Africa’s first gold medal in the games and the second African victory in Tokyo’s Olympic pool.
Pfizer/BioNTech to Start Producing Vaccines in South Africa by 2022
Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech signed a letter of intent with the Cape Town headquarters of pharmaceutical company Biovac Institute to “transfer technology, install equipment, and develop manufacturing capability,” The Biovac Institute will manufacture the vaccine for distribution across Africa to ensure that the continent does not lack amidst surging COVID-19 cases. The project slated to begin in 2022 is projected to have a capacity of 100 million vaccine doses produced and distributed to the 54 African countries annually.
Primary Schools to Resume Full-Time Learning for the First Time in Over a Year
After more than a year of attending school on a rotational basis to curb the spread of COVID-19, primary school students in South Africa have resumed in-person schools fully this month. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) South Africa said the decision to allow Grades 1 to 7 to return to school on a daily basis was approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC),
“A risk-adjusted differentiated strategy means an approach to school attendance that is determined by the level of reported Covid-19 infections in the school, and Covid-19 infections in the district, municipality, and country,” it said.
The Basic Education Department has also reduced the social distancing measure in primary schools from 1.5 meters to one meter, to accommodate schools with more students and less space. All returning students are mandated to ensure strict compliance with social distancing measures and minimum health protocols, which include the wearing of face masks, regular washing of hands, and the use of hand sanitizers.
Once primary school learners are “settled”, said Minister Angie Motshekga, the department would start interacting with provinces to ensure high schools return to a daily schedule.