Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2019 08:13:04 +0100 (MET) By Sofia CHRISTENSEN
Johannesburg, Dec 5, 2019 (AFP) - South African Airways was placed under a state-led rescue plan on Thursday as part of a massive restructuring following a costly week-long strike last month. Thousands of South African Airways (SAA) staff walked out on November 15 after the cash-strapped airline failed to meet a string of demands, including higher wages and job in-sourcing. The strike was called off the following week after SAA management and unions eventually clinched a deal.
But the walkout dealt a severe blow to the debt-ridden airline, which has failed to make a profit since 2011 and survives on government bailouts. "The Board of SAA has adopted a resolution to place the company into business rescue," said a statement by South Africa's Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, adding that the decision was also supported by the government. "It must be clear that this is not a bailout," said Gordhan. "This is the provision of financial assistance in order to facilitate a radical restructure of the airline." South Africa is struggling to get state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma.
- Costly strike - Its national airline -- which employs more than 5,000 workers and is Africa's second largest airline after Ethiopian Airlines -- had been losing 52 million rand ($3.5 million) a day during the strike. SAA's board said the business rescue, scheduled to start immediately, was decided after consultations with shareholders and the public enterprises department "to find a solution to our company's well-documented financial challenges". "The considered and unanimous conclusion has been to place the company into business rescue in order to create a better return for the company's creditors and shareholders," said the SAA board of directors in a statement.
Business practitioners were set to be appointed "in the near future" to oversee the process, they added. Unions did not immediately respond to AFP's requests for comment. They have agreed to a 5.9-percent wage increase backdated to April, but which would only start to be paid out next March depending on funding. SAA had initially refused any pay rise. The cash-strapped airline needs two billion rand ($136 million) to fund operations through the end of March. "SAA understand that this decision presents many challenges and uncertainties for its staff," said the board. "The company will engage in targeted communication and support for all its employee groups at this difficult time."
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2019 17:01:20 +0100 (MET)
Johannesburg, Nov 27, 2019 (AFP) - South Africa on Wednesday said it was introducing an affordable, cutting-edge drug to fight HIV in the country with the largest number of people living with the AIDS-causing virus. Hailing the new anti-retroviral drug as "the fastest way to reduce HIV viral load", the health department said it will start rolling out the advanced pill known as TLD on December 1, international World Aids day. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize unveiled the pioneering drug at a ceremony in southwestern KwaZulu-Natal, the province with the country's highest prevalence rates, where more than a quarter of the population is infected.
The new three-in-one pill, developed with the financial backing of global health development organisation Unitaid, bands together the drugs tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine and dolutegravir. Dolutegravir is the preferred first-line and second-line treatment recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and is already the drug of choice in high-income countries. Unitaid's director of operations Robert Matiru said the new TLD drug "is highly effective and has much more rapid viral suppression" than the current treatment regime. "It has fewer side effects in general and is much more resilient... and also is even cheaper," he told AFP.
The fixed dose, one pill combination is hoped to make it easier and more affordable for those suffering with the virus to begin -- and stay on -- treatment. Unitaid said the price would start at $75 per person per year and could drop lower, creating savings that could allow up to five million more people to receive treatment. South Africa accounts for more than 10 percent of all HIV-related deaths and 15 percent of new infections, according to Unitaid. The country has the world's largest HIV treatment programme, delivering anti-retroviral treatment to some 4.8 million people. But at least 7.7 million South Africans are living with HIV, with the highest prevalence among adults aged 15 to 49 years.
Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2019 18:10:23 +0100 (MET)
Johannesburg, Nov 17, 2019 (AFP) - South African unions on Sunday called on all aviation workers to join striking South African Airways (SAA) staff after the cash-strapped airline failed to meet their demands. The country's embattled flag carrier has been losing 52 million rand ($3.5 million) per day since more than 3,000 workers started an open-ended strike on Friday -- forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights. Talks with the two unions representing the striking workers ended without resolution on Saturday, prompting threats of further action. "In response to this deliberate provocation by the SAA board and its executive management, (the) NUMSA (metalworkers' union) is in the process of consulting workers for a secondary strike in aviation," NUMSA spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told reporters outside the SAA headquarters in Johannesburg.
NUMSA and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) first threatened to strike after SAA announced this week that almost 1,000 employees could lose their jobs as part of a restructuring process. Initial talks with management deadlocked after they failed to agree on wage hikes, prompting the unions to press on with their threats. SAA is offering a 5.9 percent pay rise, while unions are demanding an eight percent across-the-board hike and a three-year guaranteeof job security. They are also asking the airline to in-source more jobs. "We are fighting against retrenchment, corruption and privatisation," Hlubi-Majola told journalists. She said discussions with SAA subsidiaries, South Africa's airport management company and airline service providers were under way. Two transport unions have also been called on to join the action. "This secondary strike will have the impact of shutting down the entire aviation sector," NUMSA and SACCA said in a joint statement. SAA CEO Zuks Ramasia voiced "concern" about the unions' intentions and urged them to "reconsider". "The intent of a secondary strike is to cause disruption, bring all airport operations to a halt and create huge damage to the South African economy," Ramasia said in a statement on Sunday.
- Embattled airline - The CEO added that SAA could not "afford to pay any salary increases" and reiterated the 5.9 percent rise offer. "The company has repeatedly communicated the precarious financial position of the company," Ramasia said. More than 300 SAA flights have been grounded as a result of the open-ended strike. International flights started slowly resuming on Sunday, while regional and domestic flights remain grounded. "We hope all our customers understand that the cancellations have been beyond our control," Ramasia said. South Africa is struggling to get its state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma. SAA -- one of Africa's biggest airlines -- is deep in debt and has not posted a profit since 2011, despite several government bailouts. Finance Minister Tito boweni announced in February that the government would reimburse the company's 9.2 billion rand ($620 million) debt over the next three years. Ramasia said discussions with unions would resume once the airline had considered "options on the way forward".
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2019 17:59:26 +0100 (MET)
Johannesburg, Oct 28, 2019 (AFP) - South Africa's water affairs minister on Monday urged citizens to use water sparingly as water restrictions and the effects of climate change creep in. Intermittent water shortages have left neighbourhoods in the central and northern regions of South Africa without water over the past week as the country reels from a string of heatwaves. "We have to immediately begin to disaster proof South Africa and South Africa's security of water," Sisulu told journalists in Johannesburg. "We are working hard to avoid the much-dreaded Day Zero phenomenon and instead we are announcing restrictions on water usage." South Africa has imposed water restrictions in major metros, as a cautionary measure.
In the capital Pretoria, taps ran dry last week in the suburb of Laudium as a result of dwindling supplies, infrastructure failure among other issues at the country's largest water utility and supplies, Rand water. Sisulu, 65, has come under fire for not doing enough to ensure water flows in the urban areas. But many parts of the country including the Eastern and Northern Cape, have endured drought conditions for months, resulting in livestock deaths and failed crops. "Climate change is a reality and it is affecting South Africa in this way," Sisulu noted.
Dam levels across the country have dropped by 10 to 60 percent compared to 2018, according to a recent report by the water department. The company, in charge of water restrictions, said that owing to high demand it would over time have to intensify water restrictions by slowing the output from reservoirs. Sisulu called for calm saying "there is no need to panic, but there is a need to be prudent in the way that we use water". The earliest rains were expected in December, "so we are in for a long dry season," that would be "getting longer, more intense and more frequent," she said. The minister will announce a water plan next month. South Africa is a water-scarce country and it recorded the lowest annual rainfall in more than a century in 2015.
Three cases of measles have been confirmed in Rustenburg, the North West health department said on Wednesday [9 Oct 2019]. Cases of suspected measles were reported at Luka, Seraleng, and Ikemeleng. "The 1st case is of a 3-year-old from Ikemeleng Kroondal who had [a] history of travel to Mozambique in September . Case 2 is a one month old from Luka who was admitted at Job Shimankane Tabane Hospital with severe fever and diarrhoea. Case 3 is aged 11-year-old from Seraleng," said spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane. "All the cases have been confirmed by NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] through [a] blood test; 22 other specimens from suspects are also being tested. The outbreak was declared last week."
Nine teams of health officials have been dispatched to execute massive outreach campaigns aimed at immunising children under the age of 15 years as a way to curb the situation. Measles is a viral infection that can be fatal amongst children. It affects children especially under the age of 5, yet it is preventable by a vaccine. It spreads through the air by respiratory droplets produced from coughing or sneezing. Complications caused by measles include blindness, brain swelling, severe diarrhoea, and related dehydration, ear infections, and pneumonia. Research has indicated that one out of every 1000 measles cases progresses to permanent brain damage.