News in brief: 1 – 15 August 2021

James Sleight

Reports raise alarm over the fate of South Africa’s children amidst the government’s Covid-19 response.

University of Cape Town’s Children’s Institute, in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital Trust and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, have launched a series of advocacy briefs, which argue that the impact of Covid-19 on children has been overlooked. Severe malnutrition was a particular concern, with 47% of households reporting running out of food before the end of the month and one in seven households reporting a child going hungry. 

Throughout 2020, primary healthcare visits for children below the age of five dropped 23%, as the sector’s focus shifted to the response to the growing Covid crisis. The authors of the report argue that “The initial health systems response to Covid-19 care focused on adults, who accounted for over 95% of cases in the Western Cape, while children’s needs were side-lined.”

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CSIR report on SA power industry highlights country’s dependence on Coal

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) recently published its report, “Statistics of utility-scale power generation in South Africa 2021”. The report confirms existing concerns about South Africa’s energy policy -- a dependency on coal, and Eskom’s inability to provide basic service.

 Coal accounted for 81.8% to the total energy mix in the first half of 2021, while renewable energy sources provided for 11%, and  zero-carbon energy sources contributed 14.3%.

The one bright spot for green energy fans is that the report notes that South Africa has been gradually adding utility-scale wind, solar PV and CSP over the years, increasing the installed capacity from 467MW in 2013 to 5 324MW by the end of June 2021.

During 2020 South Africa experienced a total of 859 hours of power outages, the highest since 2015 when the duration was 852 hours. The first half of 2021 has already seen 650 hours of outages. If preent trends continue, we will surpass those dismal 2020 totals by around 60%.

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SASSA online application process under strain

After months of heavy lobbying, the renewal of the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant was welcomed by civil society organisations. Online applications officially opened on Friday, 6th August, but excessive web traffic severely curtailed the application process, as SASSA scrambled to open new online channels and increase its capacity. “This is a clear indication of the huge need for food aid, among others, from distressed inhabitants of the country," said SASSA CEO. So far, over five million people have applied for the R350 grant, compared to some 800 000 who applied last year.

SASSA reminded users that they still have the whole month of August to apply in order to receive their August payments. The grant payments will be paid out every month until March 2022.

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Debate over Copyright Amendment Bill

Parliament is currently debating the Copyright Amendment Bill, which would mark the biggest change to intellectual property laws since the apartheid era. Section 27, Equal Education Law Centre, Right-to-Know, and several others, support reform as current intellectual property laws limit access to medicines and textbooks. Modernising South African copyright law would, they say, protect the public’s right to “access to basic education, equality and dignity.”

However, some prominent artist organisations claim that the bill in its present form will result in authors and creators losing their royalties and having to engage in lengthy legal battles to collect compensation rightly due them. Artist, writer, producer Mbongeni Ngema argues that making works freely available for use by institutions for educational purposes reduces the incentive for authors to write, suggesting further that the subsequent loss in royalties would negatively impact most heavily on African artist and writers.

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From Stats SA: Progress towards Women’s rights in South Africa

South Africa has made significant progress towards achieving gender equality since 1956, when 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings on 9th August in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. However, it is equally clear that inequality still exists in employment and educational opportunities.

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  • In Q1 2021 unemployment rates for males at 31.4% vs. 34,0% for females; black African women were the most vulnerable with an unemployment rate of 38,3%.

  • In 2018 the median monthly earnings for women were below parity at 0,76 in 2018, a slight improvement from 0,71 in 2013.

  • Female access to education has improved substantially. Recent statistics1indicate slightly higher literacy rates for South African women than men.

  • Females are more likely to offer “family commitment” as a reason for not attending school than males (17,1% compared to 0,3%).

Source: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future on Women’s Day. StatsSA 09 Aug 2021.

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News in brief: 1 - 15 November

James Sleight
15 November 2021


Super User
19 June 2019

News in brief: 1 - 15 November

Finance Minister Godongwana gives # MTBPS2021; Dismal voter turnout at South Africa’s municipal elections; Petrol prices approach R20 per litre; Will load shedding impact matric exams?

News in brief: 16 – 31 October 2021

Annual consumer price inflation up slightly in September; Massive database of killings by police made public; UN climate change study paints grim picture; Constitutional court confirms warrantless searches in cordoned off areas unconstitutional; Civil society underwhelmed by Government proposal to replace the Covid-19 SRD grant

News in brief: 01 October – 15 October 2021

Stats SA on South Africa’s protected areas; Medical Research Council estimates Covid-19 has claimed nearly a quarter million South African lives; Report Studies pilot Global Basic Income Grant (BIG) projects since 2000; Gender-Based Violence Council Bill to Be Introduced to Parliament

News in brief: 16 September – 30 September 2021

Consumer inflation edges up in August; Komape family wins court battle seven years after their son drowned in a pit toilet; Covid-19 exposes South Africa’s broken food system; Teen pregnancies spike during pandemic

News in brief: 01 September – 15 September 2021

Gauteng Quality of Life survey shows heavy impact of Covid-19 on economy; 12.9 million apply for Covid19 SRD Grant; Bad news for S.A education as we emerge from Lockdown; Stats SA: Economy records fourth consecutive quarter of growth; Masks work and vaccine saves lives, but disinformation stands in the way.

News in brief: 16 – 31 August 2021

Can the government force us to be vaccinated?; Former Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini to be prosecuted for perjury; South African’s unemployment rate now the highest in the world; SA labour market is more favourable to men than women

News in brief: 1 – 15 August 2021

Concern over fate of SA’s children amidst the govt Covid19 response, Coal dependence of SA power industry, SASSA SRD grant application process under strain, Debate over Copyright Amendment Bill

News in brief: 15 – 31 July 2021

Re-instatement of SRD grant; Making 'Ecocide' an international crime; Police raids unfairly targeting poor.

News in brief: 1 – 15 July 2021

Lockdown impact on school dropout rates; Calls for basic income support; Govt spending breakdown

News in brief: 15 – 30 June 2021

Arts sector in crisis; ECD excluded from vaccinations; Shocking youth unemployment statistics; What is Juneteenth?

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