News in brief: 01 September – 15 September 2021

James Sleight

Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) Quality of Life (QoL) survey shows heavy impact of Covid-19 on economy

The bi-annual GCRO QoL survey was released this month, with the key take-away being that since the pandemic the overall quality of life has declined in Gauteng, especially for the poor, marginalized, and most vulnerable.

Notable socio-economic trends:

  • The economic impacts of the pandemic have been extreme, with many respondents reporting reduction in salaries and working hours, as well as job losses.

  • Of those who lost their jobs or closed their businesses due to the pandemic, return to employment was more likely for white, male and highly educated respondents.

  • While the number of those living below the poverty line in Gauteng has steadily declined over previous surveys, in 2020/21, it increased to 36%.

  • While the poor have clearly been significantly impacted by the social and economic crisis of the COVID-19 period, there is also evidence to suggest that middle-class respondents have been knocked back, some into poverty.

  • Employment (defined as having worked in the last seven days) is the highest for White respondents (54%), followed by Indian/Asian (39%), Black African (37%) and Coloured respondents (36%).

  • Poor people living in informal settlements are more likely to be affected by extreme events weather such as fires and flooding.

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SASSA reports 12.9 million have applied for Covid19 SRD Grant.

Nearly 13 million South Africans have applied to receive the R350, Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant since applications opened on August 6. While payments have begun to be distributed, the process has not always gone smoothly, as Sassa had failed to complete agreements with some banks so that recreants could receive money directly into their accounts. Sassa also reported that nearly four million applications were rejected, leading to accusations of arbitrariness and lack of transparency. Many in civil society have pointed out that the amount of R350 is far too low, but all agree that the vast number of applicants shows the high levels of economic distress in South Africa.

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More bad news for South African education as we emerge from Lockdown

In July, a national study showed that some 750,000 South Africa learners had dropped out of school during the pandemic, putting school attendance at a twenty year low. Now there is concern that literacy rates in South Africa may be affected for years to come.

Education and literacy experts are now concerned that the closures of early childhood development (ECD) centres during lockdown will negatively affect South African literacy rates as this generation moves to adulthood.  Eric Atmore, head of the Centre for Early Childhood Development, worries that the long closures of these ECD centres will delay language development, and ultimately impact learning and literacy in later grades. Experts say that school dropout rates could surge in years to come if urgent interventions are not put in place to recover lost learning time.

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From Stats SA: South African economy records fourth consecutive quarter of growth

The South African economy recorded its fourth consecutive quarter of growth, expanding by 1,2% in the second quarter of 2021 (April–June).  Despite the gains made over the last four quarters, the economy is 1,4% smaller than what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • While the SA economy has seen consistent growth since the lockdown shock, It has not not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels.

  • The transport & communication, personal services and trade industries were the most significant drivers of growth in the second quarter.

  • Finance, government, industry and construction all shrunk during Q2, with construction showing the greatest decline of 1.4%

  • While the 2nd quarter growth in GDP is guardedly good news, the overall recovery has been sluggish and jobless, with unemployment figures hitting a record high in Q2. Moreover, the economic impact of the wave of severe economic disruption, protest action and violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng will not be known until the Third Quarter report is released in December.

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Masks work and the vaccine saves lives, but disinformation stands in the way

Recent scientific studies have further shown the efficacy of vaccines and masks, and debunked alternative treatments such as Ivermectin. A report from Bangladesh dramatically showed that, where mask use was heavily promoted, Covid cases decreased substantially. The Bangladesh report is widely regarded as the most convincing evidence to date that masks help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Even cloth masks were shown to offer some protection, though were not nearly as effective as surgical grade masks.

 The Western Cape Department of Health released some of its data in the form of a powerful infographic showing, among other things, that vaccine effectiveness at preventing death for people over 60 in the Western Cape is over 95%. However, there is growing concern that “vaccine hesitancy” is slowing the vaccination rates to such an extent that the government target of vaccinating 70% (regarded as a minimum threshold to achieve herd immunity) of South Africans, may in fact be unattainable. While the means exist to stop the pandemic, disinformation campaigns against vaccines and Covid protocols stand in the way.  To this end, the Western Cape government is considering holding public hearings to identify the fears that lead to vaccine hesitancy.

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Civil society coalition rejects National Treasury scheme to terminate income support for adults

IEJ | #PayTheGrants | SPII | Black Sash |
29 October 2021

News in brief: 15 – 31 July 2021

James Sleight
30 July 2021

Dr Tumi, the Lottery and the alleged fraud of R1.5 million

Anton van Zyl and Raymond Joseph | GroundUp
10 June 2021

News in brief: 1 – 15 July 2021

James Sleight
15 July 2021

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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