Tag: lockdown

Source: FNB

The sustained reduction of interest rates and relaxation of lockdown levels is providing a significant boost to the recovery of average income and cash flow among salaried middle-class consumers who hold full-time or formal employment. This is according to FNB insights based on the income trends among its Retail and Private Banking customers who earn a monthly gross income of between R10 000 to R60 000.

The Bank states that the financial position of the average middle-income customer is now approximately on par with levels recorded in February 2020, before the implementation of the national lockdown. Additionally, spend patterns of consumers are showing recovery with most categories like groceries and entertainment back to normal except categories like travel that are still significantly lower due to the travel bans instituted during lockdown. In contrast, average income among informally employed and self-employed consumers continues to lag, as a result, this income group may take longer to regain their usual average income levels.

Chief Executive of FNB Retail and Private Banking, Raj Makanjee says: “The lockdown has been the toughest experience for consumers, emotionally and financially. However, the income recovery and improving cash flow among middle-income consumers bodes well for the economy as middle-class consumers have significant spending power. The timely adjustment of interest rates has been instrumental in cushioning consumers who are servicing debt against severe financial difficulty. Similarly, our Cashflow Relief measures have allowed our customers who earned partial or no income during lockdown levels 4 and 5, to manage the impact of this difficult period on their finances,” he says.

According to FNB, the average income of consumers who are employed by SMEs (employing less than 10 people) was impacted the most over the course of lockdown. The Bank estimates that one in two of people employed by these SME businesses have seen a drop of at least 15% in average income. However, only one in five of those employed by larger companies (1000 employees or more) experienced an average income drop of 15% or more.

While the current income recovery trend is encouraging, the Bank is aware that consumers continue to face difficulties as COVID-19 is still part of our everyday reality. As a result, it continues to avail its resources and platform to help customers with money management across its Retail and Private Banking areas. FNB has also initiated money management conversations and interventions to help its customers in making smarter decisions about their finances, find practical ways to free up cash flow in this period and educating customers on their finances to ultimately enable them to make informed decisions.

“By having these meaningful conversations, we gain better understanding of our customers’ situations and have greater insight to practically assist them with freeing up cash flow. Specific spending solutions across our customers’ credit, essential and lifestyle spending are assessed for each customer to determine how best we can assist them, furthermore, we are helping customers to align their spending to the things that are important to them in order to achieve their financial goals.

Additionally, our eBucks Rewards continues to provide real help and timely relief to customers during this period. We’ve also expanded our eBucks benefits for seniors to offer extra support to our senior customers. In the coming weeks, we expect to introduce more platform-based tools to give customers even more control over their budgets” adds Makanjee.

By Mfuneko Toyana for Reuters

Africa’s most industrialised nation has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, recording the seventh-largest number of cases worldwide, although it has seen fewer deaths than some other badly affected countries.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted a 47.3% contraction because of the lockdown restrictions, which were among the harshest in the world.

“This is the first time in history that the South African economy has contracted for four straight quarters,” Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke told a news conference.

The rand fell roughly 1% against the dollar on the dismal data to trade at 16.9325 per dollar.

Joe de Beer, another top official at Statistics South Africa, said that after adjusting for inflation the economy was roughly the same size in the April-June quarter as in the first quarter of 2007.

Most sectors declined steeply except for agriculture, which grew 15.1% in the second quarter from January-March, helped by fruit and nut exports, and better-than-average winter rainfall.

Mining declined 73.1%, manufacturing 74.9% and construction 76.6%. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the whole economy shrank 17.1% from the same period in 2019.

Jeff Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas, said the global impact of the pandemic coupled with the recent return of power cuts by ailing state utility Eskom would hamper any economic recovery.

“It will take a very long time to get to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

The government expects a GDP decline of at least 7% in 2020, a worrying prediction in a country where unemployment was at around 30% before COVID-19.

Pamela Mutandwa, 37, who runs a roadside vegetable stand in Pretoria, said times were hard. “It was really difficult during lockdown. There were no people buying and I struggled. When I opened in 2009 there were more customers.”

Tlouama Abrama, 31, a petrol attendant, said he was disappointed by the government’s economic policies. “They should be doing more to revive the factories around here so people can get jobs. Their policies are not working.”

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

Makro and Game owner Massmart says that its losses for the half year ending 29 June 2020 will be slightly lower than previously expected – but it still expects to take a significant hit.

In a sales statement published on Thursday (20 August), Massmart said it expects headline losses for the period to be between 31% and 41% lower than the same period last year.

While this is down significantly, it is a slight improvement from the over 50% decline projected in June. The slight boost has been attributed to lighter lockdown restrictions which came into effect during that month.

The group anticipates a R1 billion to R1.1 billion headline loss for the period, extended from a loss of R800 million recorded in 2019.

“June 2020 marked an improvement in sales in comparison to sales in prior months during the national level 5 and 4 Covid-19 lockdown periods,” the group said.

“Liquor, general merchandise and home improvement sales benefited from pent-up consumer demand, resulting in total sales for June increasing by 0.8% compared to the same period last year.”

However, this was still not enough to improve sales figures from last year. For the 26-week period ended 28 June 2020, Massmart’s total sales amounted to R39.6 billion, representing a decrease of 9.7% on the same period last year, with comparable store sales decreasing by the same level. Internal product inflation is estimated at 3.7%.

Total sales from South African stores for the 26-week period decreased by 10.6%, while comparable sales decreased by 10.5%.

“The Covid-19 national lockdown in South Africa had a significant impact on the trading performance of the Massmart Group. For the 9-week period from 30 March 2020 to 31 May 2020, total sales were R4.6 billion lower than the same period last year,” the group said.

Operating costs attributable to the execution of safety protocols in group stores – in accordance with regulated requirements – amounted to R62 million on a YTD basis, while the group added that other indirect costs related to the pandemic increased by R13 million.

Further, Massmart said its earnings are expected to be adversely affected by the impairment of the carrying value of some store level assets, as well as retrenchment costs relating to the announced closure of all of the Dion Wired and 11 Masscash stores.

A possible sale of the Masscash stores is also currently under review, it said. Mashcash includes: CBW, Jumbo Cash and Carry, Trident, Shield, Cambridge Food and the Rhino Group.

 

“Rogue” industries may be subjected to stricter lockdown rules, after numerous reports of non-compliant restaurants and pub have surfaced.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has appealed to restaurants to comply with safety regulations for the good of the sector, according to News24. This follows numerous complaints from citizens, patrons and employees of non-compliance.

Wendy Alberts of RASA (the Restaurant Association of South Africa) issued the following plea to restaurants:

It is with a heavy and concerned heart that I write this message today.
It has become apparent that various owners believe that the current regulations do not apply to them. We have worked so hard to open our sector and much heartache has been caused due to the restrictions and full closure of our beautiful restaurants.
To date we have had reports of restaurants operating past curfew, ignoring the social distancing protocols and not ensuring masks are used etc. These incidents have sprung up all over social media and has since garnered the attention of the Minister of Tourism and the NCCC.
Due to these infractions, consideration is being held to impose stricter protocols or even reverting to off-site consumption and even to close the restaurant sector. It is unthinkable that due to a few operators not following the rules the entire industry may suffer again.
As unfortunate as it is, we must therefore encourage the reporting of non-compliant restaurants so that we can save the industry as a whole.
We urge everyone to follow the regulations and hope that everyone stays safe.

In a separate report, News24 said that Ekurhuleni police had visited 102 pubs, and found only 9 to be in adherance with Covid-19 regulations.
This was part of an operation where Ekurhuleni police arrested 265 individuals over the weekend for crimes including drunk driving, possession of narcotics and theft.

By Moira Kloppers for Sakeliga

A new Sakeliga poll shows that lockdown and corruption is pushing businesses’ willingness to pay tax off a cliff.

  • 95% of respondents in a Sakeliga poll this week said that lockdown decreased their willingness to pay tax
  • Nine out of 10 indicated an inclination to delay tax payments for as long as legally possible
  • Six out of 10 would even consider illegally withholding tax if encouraged to do so and if it could end lockdown quicker

Piet le Roux, Sakeliga CEO says that a new normal in tax willingness is rapidly taking hold. “The new normal for tax willingness is going to be much lower than before. We recommend that government and analysts compensate for this trend in their estimations of future fiscal deficits. Businesses are becoming unusually motivated to decrease their tax payments.”

Le Roux says that, from participants’ comments and the state of the country, evidently lockdown, corruption, mismanagement, and generally harmful government policies have created a perfect storm.

“A senior executive at one of South Africa’s iconic companies recently put it to me that he considers paying tax in South Africa a possible violation of the American Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, since the money largely funds harm, mismanagement and corruption. While this interpretation is probably, legally speaking, incorrect, it is morally striking. This moral dilemma is weighing with increasing burden on businesspeople in South Africa: they consider it their duty to serve and fund the common good, yet they increasingly view tax as detrimental to society because of how it funds mismanagement, corruption, and harmful policies,” says Le Roux.

Further highlights from the poll include:

  • 84% said government handled the Covid-19 outbreak badly, 14% were ambivalent, and 2% said government handled it well
  • 61% of businesses suffered big financial losses, 29% significant, with only 10% seeing their income unaffected or increased
  • 94% scored the fairness of government’s Covid-19 relief measures as either “Very bad” (78%) or “Bad” (16%)
  • 883 people participated in the self-selecting poll, conducted among more than 40 000 individuals in Sakeliga’s membership and network
  • Most participants responded via an email link, and around 10% contributed through links accessed on social media

 

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The global COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdowns implemented by various countries have resulted in an explosion in broadband usage as more people work from home than ever before.

ISPs and infrastructure providers have had to adapt to this rapid shift in broadband traffic.

South African fibre networks, for example, provided customers with up to double their fibre line speeds through their Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

As a result of these lockdowns implemented around the world, the average broadband speed of many countries decreased substantially as networks struggled to meet the demand.

Cable.co.uk has published a report comparing average download speeds during national lockdowns around the world, factoring in the stringency of the lockdowns implemented in each country.

The research combined data from OxCGRT’s stringency index, which tracks government lockdown measures that specifically limit the behaviour of populations, with data from over 364 million broadband speed tests courtesy of M-Lab.

The region where broadband speeds dropped the most during lockdown was Central America, with an average drop of 26.03%.

“Only one of the six countries qualifying in this region experienced a rise (Costa Rica at +0.82%),” Cable.co.uk said.

“Meanwhile, Panama (-48.99%), Guatemala (-14.30%), Honduras (-3.69%), Mexico (-2.35%), and El Salvador (-0.01%) all experienced drops in speed of varying severity.”

South Africa broadband speed drop
South Africa saw a marginal average broadband speed drop of just over 5% during the period from 18 March to 30 June 2020, according to the report.

This was in line with other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, apart from Angola, which saw a significant increase of 117.19%.

It should be noted that a number of African countries were excluded from this comparison due to their lack of inclusion in the OxCGRT stringency index or their insufficient number of tests.

South Africa’s statistics are summarised below:

  • Average broadband speed change: -5.48%
  • Mean lockdown stringency: 57.31
  • Number of speed tests: 7,074,978
  • Average download speed during lockdown: 14.85Mbps
  • Average download speed outside of lockdown: 15.71Mbps
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, 13 of the 14 qualifying countries recorded drops in measured internet speeds during their lockdown periods, with an average decrease of -14.24%.

“Angola bucked the trend in the region, showing a surprising increase of 117.19% during its lockdown period,” the report said.

“Meanwhile, Madagascar (-37.71%), Cote d’Ivoire (-30.77%), Ghana (-24.58%), and Nigeria (-20.84%) experienced the largest drops in measured speeds during their respective lockdowns.”

Cable.co.uk consumer telecoms analyst Dan Howdle said that they measured an average global broadband speed drop of 6.31%, which is a significant departure from the normal trend.

“Our annual global broadband speed tracker has demonstrated global increases of around 20% year-on-year since 2017,” Howdle said.

“For the majority of countries in this study to be moving in the opposite direction during their COVID-19 lockdowns, then, is all the more significant.”

“While it is impossible to attribute direct causality, our study shows a high correlation between lockdown periods around the world and dips in measured internet speeds, with some regions of the world measuring the most substantial drops, and others more or less unchanged,” Howdle said.

Source: De Bruyn Daly

Driving licence test centres were closed during the lockdown and even prior to that centres were running behind in renewing driver’s licences and testing first time driver’s licence applicants.

The Minister of Transport recognised these difficulties and gave motorists until August 31 to renew their licences. That has now been extended to January 31 2021 and your licence is deemed to be valid if it expired during the period from March 26 to August 31.

Check your insurance

Insurance policies require you to have a valid driver’s licence and if this is not the case, the insurer is entitled to refuse any claim made. Even if your policy doesn’t specifically require a valid driver’s licence, there could still be difficulties in making a claim without a valid licence.

It is worth contacting your insurance broker or company and getting written clarification of cover if your licence has expired or will expire this year.

Car hire

On a related topic, car hire companies will not allow car hire without a valid driver’s licence – check upfront that your “deemed valid” licence will be accepted. And as and when international travel becomes available to us again, remember that your destination country may still regard your expired licence as invalid.

Motor vehicle licence discs

All motor vehicle licence discs, temporary permits, and roadworthy certificates that expired during the period from March 26 to May 31 are deemed valid until August 31 2020.

Return-to-school plan outlined by DBE

The Department of Basic Education published the amended school calendar for 2020 on 2 August 2020.

All public schools will break from 27 July 2020 and the school arrangements after the break are as follows:

School arrangements after break

27 – 31 Jul 2020 – The principal and the School Management Team will determine the staffing requirements to ensure compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist with the distribution of learning material and the roll out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.
– The principal and the School Management Team must be on duty to make arrangements for the receipt of the learners anticipated in the weeks ahead.
– Schools will remain open for feeding of qualifying learners in terms of the National School Nutrition Programme.

3 – 7 Aug 2020 – Grade 12 and Schools of Skill: Year 4 learners will return to school on 3 August 2020.
– Grade 12 and Schools of Skill: Year 4 teachers (and teacher support staff) will return to school on 3 August 2020.
– The principal and the School Management Team (as required) will be in attendance at school.
– Officials (as identified by the principal and the School Management Team) will return to school on 3 August 2020, to assist in ensuring compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist in the distribution of learning material and the roll-out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.

11–14 Aug 2020 – Grade 7 learners will return to school on 11 August 2020.
– Grade 7 officials (and teacher support staff) will return to school on 11 August 2020.
– The principal and the School Management Team (as required) will be in attendance at school.
– Officials, who are at school, will assist in ensuring compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist in the distribution of learning material and the roll-out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.

17– 21 Aug 2020 – All officials will report for duty on 17 August 2020 to prepare for the return of learners in the remaining grades.
– Grade 7; Grade 12; and Schools of Skill: Year 4 learners and officials will already be at school.
– Officials who are already at school will assist in ensuring compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements and to assist in the distribution of learning material and the roll-out of the daily school feeding programme for all qualifying learners.

24 Aug 2020
(a) Learners in the following grades, years or schools will return to school on 24 August 2020:
– Grade R; Grade 1; Grade 2; Grade 3; Grade 4; and Grade 6;
-Grade 9; Grade 10; and Grade 11;
– Schools of Skill: Year 1; Year 2; and Year 3;
– Schools with Learners with Severe and Profound Intellectual Disabilities (“LSPID”): Year 1; Year 2; and Year 3;
– Schools for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disabilities (“SID”): Grade R; Grade 1; Grade 2; Grade 3; and final year (Occupational); and
– Schools with autistic learners: Junior group (below 13 years); Senior Group (13 years and above); and final year (18 years and above).

(b) The school must ensure compliance with the health, safety and social distancing requirements in accommodating this group of learners.

31 Aug 2020: Learners in the following grades or schools will return to school on 31 August 2020:

  • Grade 5 and Grade 8; and
  • Schools for Learners with Severe Intellectual Disabilities (“SID”): Grade 4 and Grade 5.

Speaking in a recent eNCA interview, police minister Bheki Cele said that there had been a notable decrease in crime in several areas during lockdown Level 3.

These include:

  • Cash-in-transit heists;
  • Bank robberies; and
  • House robberies.

However, gender-based violence is currently a major concern; he highlighted the fact that more than 38 000 women were raped in South Africa last year.

He called on community members to report any abuse or violent behaviour before a crime is committed.

Lockdown measures

Cele said operations by the SAPS would be intensified during the country’s national state of disaster.

Specific measures include:

  • The conducting of static roadblocks on all national routes and major routes in order to monitor, control and ensure adherence to the regulations;
  • The conducting of vehicle checkpoints, on provincial routes, regional routes, rail routes, main streets in order to monitor, control and ensure adherence to the regulations;
  • The conducting of high visibility patrols to monitor, control and ensure adherence to the regulations;
  • Designated investigation capacity and case management; and
  • Implementation of objects of policing, in accordance with S 205(3) of the constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

 

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband 

Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku has blamed the accelerated spread of COVID-19 in the province on the “blatant disregard” of lockdown regulations, among other factors.

Speaking in an interview with eNCA on 5 July, Masuku said that the province was in discussions with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) about how it could more strictly enforce the advanced level 3 lockdown restrictions.

The number of recorded COVID-19 cases in South Africa rose to 205,721 on 6 July, breaching the 200,000-mark.

Gauteng has emerged as a major hotspot, accounting for 32.5% of all COVID-19 cases with 66,891 recorded cases in the province.

The Gauteng government was previously discussing a plan to re-implement a hard lockdown in the province, but Masuku told eNCA the executive council has agreed to look at stricter enforcement of the current regulations instead.

“What we agreed on as the executive council is to see how we are able to apply and enforce the regulations that will help us to reduce the rate of transmission,” he said.

“These regulations are the ones that are already applied but are not being respected by the community.”

Masuku said the biggest problem was the adherence to rules around public gatherings.

“People have defied that. People are deliberately and intentionally organising social events, parties, and weddings.”

“There are regulations that prohibit those types of interactions and we want to see those being enforced,” he said.

Masuku added that people should not gather in any groups if it is not necessary.

Working with police and soldiers to enforce lockdown rules
One new restriction being considered by Gauteng is the limitation of alcohol sales to only one day per week.

Masuku did not confirm whether this would be implemented, stating only that the province had the power to regulate the sale of alcohol and it has noted the effect reopening sales has had on hospitals in the province.

“The issue of alcohol restriction is within the provincial purview and we can regulate it,” he said.

“We have seen the impact of reintroducing the sale of alcohol, what it has done to our casualties, to our trauma units, and it is something that as the provincial government we took a very strong decision around and we just feel that it should be properly regulated.”

Masuku’s statements that Gauteng would further clamp down on enforcement were supported by provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe, who confirmed yesterday that the provincial government would not push for a hard lockdown.

“We are not calling for the return of hard lockdown. We fully understand and support the current risk-adjusted strategy, which is being implemented by the national government,” Masebe said.

“The things that we are looking at is the continued use of police, being supported by soldiers, to got to places and help enforce regulations.”

“We will also continue working with other spheres of government to go factories, shopping malls, and other places to ensure that people follow the regulations,” Masebe said.

National Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has not ruled out the possibility of a hard lockdown in the province, however, stating that this would be evaluated by the NCCC.

“At the moment we’ve not taken a decision for a hard lockdown but it cannot be ruled out as a future instrument that can be used,” he said.

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