There isn’t enough clinical research being done in Africa. Less than 2.5% of all clinical trials in the world are done on the continent. This is why South Africa’s involvement in one of the COVID-19 vaccine trials is so important. The country’s effort is being led by Professor Shabir Madhi. The Conversation Africa’s health and medicine editor Ina Skosana spoke to him about the process, and what can be expected. This is an edited version of a podcast, which you can listen to here.


How does the trial work?

The study that we embarked on in South Africa is for a vaccine that was developed by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. It’s what is known as a non-replicating vector base COVID-19 vaccine.

The study came about when I reached out to the principal investigator at the University of Oxford whom I’ve known for over 20 years to find out if there was any interest on their part to include South Africa as part of the clinical development plan of the vaccine. The short answer was yes, provided we conducted the study on our own, including raising the funding to conduct the study.

The agreement with Oxford University preceded a subsequent agreement that they’ve entered into with AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company responsible for the further clinical development of the vaccine and future manufacturing. Pre-clinical studies of this vaccine candidate, including in non-human primates, have demonstrated initial evidence of the safety of this vaccine, as well as its ability to protect against COVID-19 disease.

Why South Africa?

The main reason is that the legacy of vaccines shows that they don’t necessarily work similarly across different populations. So if we want to be one of the early adopters, in terms of implementing vaccination against COVID-19 as part of our immunisation programme, we really need to generate data applicable to the local context.

 

A number of past vaccines have been shown to be highly efficacious in high income settings. But when they’ve gone on to be evaluated in low and middle income settings, they were found to be much less efficacious and, at times, not efficacious at all.

So if we want to make informed decisions at an early stage about whether these vaccines are going to be of benefit to people in South Africa, it’s critical that we undertake the clinical evaluation during the start of the entire programme, rather than at the latter stage. Waiting for results to come in from other studies would just lead to a lag in terms of the timing when vaccines would be introduced in South Africa as well as other low and middle income countries.

This has been the experience for many other life saving vaccines where it has taken between five and 20 years between their availability in high income countries and low middle income countries.

How are participants chosen for the trial?

Participation is completely voluntary.

Participants typically come to inquire about the study at clinics. We sit down with them and explain what the study is all about. What are the criteria for joining, what the expectations are of the volunteers because the study has quite intense expectations in terms of being able to come for regular visits. And they obviously need to be agreeable that when they do participate in the study, if they do develop signs and symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, that they would come forward to be investigated. This is critical for us to be able to determine whether this vaccine protects against COVID-19.

In addition, we would do some blood tests which ensures that they don’t have any sort of medical conditions that we would want to exclude.

If they’re found to be eligible, we randomly allocate them to one of two groups. Half will receive the vaccine, and the other half a control substance, which in our case, is a placebo. This is important for two reasons. The first is that it allows us to provide robust data in terms of the safety profile of the vaccine. And the control group enables us to determine whether the vaccine actually does have any impact in protecting against COVID-19.

Is there any reason people should be sceptical of the trial?

The short answer is no. The narratives that Africans are being used as guinea pigs is fundamentally incorrect. Rather a case of us wanting to generate robust scientific data to be able to make informed decisions about whether those vaccines actually do protect South Africans – and possibly Africans more generally – against developing COVID-19.

What are the next steps?

Right now we busy enrolling into the clinical trial. We’ve just reached the 200 mark out of the 2000 participants that we plan to enrol. We expect to have completed enrollment of all the volunteers over the next three to four weeks.

After that we will keep in touch with all of the participants at least every two weeks, including weekly SMS messages to determine whether or not experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. And if they are they will be asked to come in to be investigated to determine whether they are infected or not.

The endgame of the study is twofold. One is obviously to evaluate the safety of the vaccine, which is something that is ongoing almost on a daily basis.

The second part is that once we have about 42 individuals that have developed COVID-19 at least about a month after they’ve received the first dose of either the vaccine or the placebo we will then be able to do an analysis to determine whether the vaccine actually does protect against COVID-19. Specifically we will be testing if the vaccine efficacy is at least 60%; that is by being vaccinated your risk for developing COVID-19 will be reduced by at least 60% if not more.

 

We anticipate that we will probably be able to provide an answer as to whether this vaccine works and protects against COVID-19 by the end of November this year. In the worst case scenario it might take us a bit longer probably into the second quarter of next year.

What about managing expectations?

It’s very exciting to be involved in the sort of clinical development of the vaccine. But we need to be guarded in terms of our expectations as to what the result will be.

The fact that we’re embarking on a clinical trial doesn’t mean that we’re going to have a vaccine that’s going to protect against COVID-19.

Only about 10% of vaccines that go into clinical trials are eventually licensed for use. Right now there’ are approximately 200 vaccines that are being developed for COVID-19. It would be a huge accomplishment if, over the next 12 to 18 months, we are successful showing that even one out of every 20 (5%) of the vaccines that go into human studies are safe and provide some protection against COVID-19.

So even though there’s a huge amount of work taking place around vaccines, at least for the next 12 months the only tools that we’ve got available to us to try to protect people is adherence to physical distancing, the wearing of face masks in public spaces, avoiding mass gatherings, and making sure that you’re in adequately ventilated settings when in public spaces.

 

Anyone living in South Africa who is interested in participating in the study can e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.The Conversation

Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology and Director of the MRC Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

An analysis of financial inclusion in South Africa shows that affordability limits poor households’ access to formal financial services.

In our study, which looked at people’s use of financial goods and services between 2008 and 2015, we found that there was a general increase in use. But this was severely skewed to households with higher incomes.

Financial inclusion is broadly defined as the ability of people to access a range of affordable financial services. Among these are bank and savings accounts, loans and insurance products. Households that are financially excluded can’t take part in various forms of savings or wealth accumulation. These range from paying bills via direct debit to gaining favourable forms of credit.

The key policy implication of our findings is that more financial services should target low-income households. It should be a priority, given the high rate of exclusion among the poor.

Measuring use based on income

In general, there are four dimensions of financial inclusion: access, usage, quality and welfare. In our study, we focus on usage.

The financial services available in South Africa range from the well-known ones such as bank accounts and credit cards to the less well known ones such as hire purchase agreements and loans with “mashonisa” (loan sharks). In the South African context, a bank account remains the most used financial service. The number of unbanked adult individuals decreased from 17 million to 14 million between 2003 and 2017.

Our study is the first to thoroughly investigate the data from the National Income Dynamics Study. This study interviews the same households (if possible) every two years to track the changes in their income and non-income welfare over time.

One standout feature of the study is that it asks household heads about their usage of 14 financial services.

With the aid of some statistical techniques, we developed an aggregate financial usage index to investigate the profile of people who were comprehensively financially included.

What we found

The study found that the increased use of financial products and services was mostly associated with higher income households. The other characteristics of individuals and households that showed higher usage of financial services were: middle-aged, male, white, more educated, urban residents in Western Cape and Gauteng provinces. They came from bigger households with more employed members.

The likelihood of complete financial exclusion was more prevalent in poor rural households living in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces. Almost invariably, these households were made up of black people. The study also found that households with low real per capita income and fewer employed members were associated with greater likelihood of financial exclusion. Households bigger in size and headed by middle-aged people were associated with significantly higher financial inclusion and lower likelihood of complete financial exclusion.

The table below presents the proportion of households with at least one adult member having some form of the observed financial services. The results indicate that there has been an increase in the use of most financial services between waves 1 (2008) and 4 (2014/2015). In particular, the proportion of households that have at least one member with a bank account increased from almost 57% in wave 1 (2008) to over 78% by wave 4 (2014/2015), while those with a personal loan from a bank nearly doubled (8.63% to 16.41%) between the first (2008) and last waves (2014/2015).

Proportion of households with at least one adult having some form of financial services. Author supplied

We also considered variables from informal financial sources, such as loans from mashonisa (loan sharks), which have increased from 1.69% in wave 1 to 2.97% in wave 4, and loans from a family member, friend or employer, which increased from less than 2.85% to 8.76%. The use of other important services, such as hire purchase agreements, store cards and pension or retirement annuity plans, also increased across the four waves. There is a decrease in the use of some of the major financial services. For example, households where at least one member reported to have a home loan or bond were at 8.63% in wave 1 and gradually declined over the years, ending up at 5.68% by wave 4. There was also a slight decline in study loans and vehicle finance.

One finance source that particularly stands out is the use of credit cards, which decreased from 12.5% (wave 1) to 9.74% (wave 4).

In all four waves, households that were regarded as poor had relatively lower rates of use of each source of finance.

Poor households had relatively lower rates of use.

The figure below shows the proportion of households that were completely financially excluded (they didn’t have any of the 14 sources of finance). It more than halved between the first (36.77%) and fourth (16.40%) waves.

Proportion of households completely financially excluded.

What next?

Supporting alternative, black finance access and usage is one possibility. This may range from low-cost bank accounts and products to advanced technologies that deliver financial services to the excluded in a swift, affordable and efficient manner.

Other countries can be used as a case study.

For instance, in India, the government and private providers have worked together to grow access to financial products such as insurance at a lower cost. The Indian government founded a social security fund that finances insurance companies to subsidise insurance premium policies offered to poorer households. This initiative has provided over two million poor Indians with access to insurance policies.

The promotion of money pools is also another option. A study conducted from five Caribbean countries showed that money pools, where poor people pool their money and create collective banks, helped people save. In Cameroon, the practice of lending and saving through kinship and financial networks was found to be more trusted than the mainstream.

This clearly calls for a proactive financial system that promotes such channels and one that is trusted by the general public, especially low-income earners.

But financial inclusion initiatives directed at the poor should be closely monitored. This is because they don’t always have a positive impact, particularly on poor people.The Conversation

 

Velenkosini Matsebula, Lecturer, Economics, University of the Western Cape and Derek Yu, Professor, Economics, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Despite a statement from the the Botswana government that President Cyril Ramaphosa had sent Intelligence Minister Ayanda Dlodlo as his envoy to Gaborone, News24 has learnt that the trip has been called off.

The Botswana government said in a statement on Monday that President Mokgweetsi Masisi would meet with Dlodlo on Tuesday afternoon. The statement was further posted on Masisi's official Twitter page.

However, prior to the confirmation by the Botswana government, Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko denied that an envoy had been appointed.

"The president has not and has no intention of appointing an envoy to Botswana in relation to the cases involving Bridgette Radebe," she said.

Diko said no minister had been tasked to deal with the matter.

News24 understands the trip was called off after we posed questions to the presidency.

The now cancelled meeting comes as the Botswana government had approached AfriForum to assist it in tracing millions of Pula allegedly laundered from the country.

Botswana's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), advocate Stephen Tiroyakgosi, last Tuesday bemoaned the lack of response from South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) after its request for mutual legal assistance in the matter.

Motsepe-Radebe is implicated in allegations of money laundering.

Accusations denied

Last week the Botswana government announced it had enlisted the services of AfriForum's Gerrie Nel to get the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to respond to its request made last September.

The move by Gabarone is expected to cause diplomatic tensions between it and Pretoria.

Speaking to City Press, Motsepe-Radebe had challenged the Botswana government to "produce evidence that such a large amount of money left the country in the first place and how and if the Reserve Bank of Botswana has no records of that".

She also bemoaned the fact that the names of her relatives – Ramaphosa is her brother-in-law and Patrice Motsepe is her brother – come up whenever the case is mentioned.

Motsepe-Radebe has denied the accusations.

She further stated that she would "welcome the South African government assisting the Botswana government with its request for mutual legal assistance … These allegations are harmful to my reputation and to all the other citizens that have been referenced in the affidavit".

Late last year, she was named as a co-signatory in two South African bank accounts holding more than $10 billion (R170 billion) allegedly stolen from the Botswana government.

Nel further told the media that: "Money originating from the Bank of Botswana was illegally laundered through various international accounts and pertinent to this particular account, $48 billion found its way to bank accounts in South Africa."

 

A growing insurgency in the northern parts of Mozambique has caught the attention of conflict analysts and observers worldwide.

There is now even a possibility that the South African National Defence Force might become involved in the most northern Cabo Delgado province, with a view to ending the deadly violence and litany of atrocities, abductions and destruction of infrastructure.

Should the South African government decide to send in its military, the main aim would be to focus on the violent activities of an extremist and militant Islamic group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah. It is also locally known as Al Shabaab, even though it has no connections with the Somali movement of the same name. The group aims to establish its own mosques and madrassas to enhance the spread of its radical dogma.

Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah started as a religious sect which turned into a guerrilla group. Initially its goal was to impose Sharia law (Islamic law) in Cabo Delgado. It rejected the state’s schooling, health system and laws, which resulted in much tension in the province. Some analysts argue that the movement is motivated more by greed than by dogma or grievance: that it is making millions of dollars a week through criminal activities relating to mining, logging, poaching and contraband.

Be that as it may, many of its members appear to be socio-economically marginalised young people without a proper education and formal employment. They have been joined by young immigrants in a similar marginalised position. It is estimated that the movement’s members are organised in tens of small cells along the coast of northern Mozambique.

There is rightly widespread concern over these developments. Should South Africa – and specifically its defence force – get involved, it would certainly be venturing into a highly violent and complex landscape, requiring a counter-terrorism type of operations.

Such operations are always highly challenging. Countering terrorist and insurgent forces in Mozambique could be as challenging as the protracted operations against Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, the militant Islamist sects that operate predominantly in Nigeria and Somalia, destabilising large areas with their terror campaigns.

Why should there be serious concern over the situation in Mozambique?

Mozambique borders Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and eSwatini. Four of these six countries are landlocked, and hence depend on Mozambique as a gateway to global markets. Events in Cabo Delgado could thus threaten regional stability.

Even though Mocímboa da Praia, which is regarded as the headquarters of the extremists, is about 2,500km from South Africa, the group nevertheless poses a challenge to the country too. After all, Mozambique has strong economic ties with South Africa as the region’s economic engine. Regional stability is certainly in the interest of South Africa.

From a South African standpoint, four main issues stand out. These are: the danger of the spread of Islamist extremism so close to home; the strategic importance of the area under siege; weakness of Mozambican security forces; and combating organised crime.

Violent extremism

This is the first case of violent extremism of this kind in southern Africa. It is also the first manifestation of a militant movement which is associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the notion of a jihadist insurgency.

Until recently, acts of terror conducted by extremists in southern Africa were confined to Tanzania and Zanzibar.

The death toll and displacements of Mozambican locals in Cabo Delgado are difficult to verify. But reports indicate that more than 1,000 people have died and about two million are affected by the crisis overall.

Secondly, in recent years massive offshore natural gas deposits have been identified, drawing some of the world’s biggest energy players. Offshore exploration in the Cabo Delgado area is among Africa’s three largest liquid natural gas projects.

Investments of billions of dollars have already been made, but an escalation of violence is putting the future of these investments at risk.

These projects could be of major importance to poverty alleviation in the country. Poverty affects most of those in rural areas with low levels of formal education. Economic activity in Mozambique has improved in recent years and has the potential to strengthen in the foreseeable future. But much will depend on the megaprojects in Cabo Delgado, debt restructuring, COVID-19, macroeconomic stability and improved political and economic governance, among other key factors.

For decades, South Africa has experienced an illegal influx of Mozambicans due to development challenges in their country. Thus, economic, political and social development in Mozambique are of the utmost importance to South Africa, which is battling massive poverty and unemployment of its own.

Although exploration in Mozambique is offshore, support facilities are onshore and most vulnerable to attacks. The foreign companies with their massive investments feel threatened, especially now that final investment decisions have to be taken.

South Africa has another interest in these developments. The South African energy and chemical multinational Sasol has invested heavily in gas exploration projects since 2014.

The arrival of foreign companies has led to deep discontent among local people who are deeply aggrieved by their activities. They had to relocate to make way for the infrastructure development, amid complaints about the compensation they received. They’re also aggrieved that they have been resettled inshore, away from the coastal fishing areas.

These factors further complicate security challenges in the very delicate social landscape. Moreover, the insurgents can easily exploit local grievances as matters play into their hands.

The Mozambican military and police have proven to be no match for the militants. They have been unable to prevent them from taking the northern strategic town of Mocímboa de Praia, as well as invading a town near Quissanga.

To counter the growing insurgency, the Mozambican government has contracted the Wagner group, a private Russian military company, to assist government forces. But the situation appears to have gone from bad to worse.

A South African security group, the Dyck Advisory Group, was also allegedly assisting the Mozambican government.

A fourth cause for concern over dynamics in the Cabo Delgado province relates to organised crime. The area is a major conduit for smuggling drugs and other contraband. The volume of heroin produced and shipped from Afghanistan along a network of routes, via East and southern Africa, has increased considerably in recent years.

Cabo Delgado is a key point for smuggling drugs, wildlife, timber, gems and gold. The insurgency makes it more difficult to enforce the law in the province.

No choice

Operations aimed at countering Islamist extremists tend to continue for many years. Success at curbing violent terrorist attacks requires careful and long term responses.

Ideally, these should comprise a mixed set of interventions, including social reform, economic development and varying degrees of military force.

South African political involvement is now almost inevitable as the Southern African Development Community has already undertaken to help Mozambique in its fight against the insurgency. This makes it highly likely that South Africa’s military forces will somehow get involved.The Conversation

 

Theo Neethling, Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The provisional liquidator for state-owned regional airline SA Express says that the number of parties interested in buying or investing in the airline has grown from just two to seven, while its ultimate fate it still being considered.

Aviwe Ndyamara was briefing Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Wednesday. The briefing took place after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled on Monday that the airline's provisional liquidator could sell or transfer the airline's property.

While SA Express and SAA are both state-owned airlines, they are distinct businesses. SAA was placed into business rescue in December 2019. Its business rescue practitioners published their long-delayed business rescue plan on Tuesday evening.

About two months after SAA went into voluntary business rescue, SA Express was placed into business rescue by an order of the court. It entered provisional liquidation in late April this year after its joint business rescue practitioners filed an urgent court application.

Ndyamara he told parliamentarians on Wednesday that the the regional airline's liquidators would continue investigating the affairs of the company while starting to engage a sales process.

"We are not yet in the position to quantify the costs of the sales process; however, all expenses incurred will form part of the liquidation administration expenses. We are in the process of engaging more than six interested parties," said Ndyamara.

Ndyamara said with the finalisation of an interim valuation complete, the liquidators managed to reduce the bond of security of SA Express from R1.8 billion to R113 million. This refers to security required by a master of the high court when appointing a custodian, in this case the provisional liquidators, over an asset, in this case SA Express.

He said the airline had an ongoing lease agreement for offices and hangars for R2.2 million a month, and ongoing aircraft and engine lease agreements of no less than R22.5 million a month.

"Immediate consideration must be given to the termination of the onerous lease agreements however this may result in an impact of the licenses," Ndyamara said.

The airline currently holds two licenses which are scheduled to expire in late July, as well as approval to act as an aviation security training organization approval which expires on 31 December. Ndyamara said the liquidators hoped to engage a sales or investment process before the licenses expire.

'Never investors, only vultures'

SCOPA members found little comfort in the submission of the liquidators in terms of ensuring accountability for the transactions, leadership failures and mismanagement that sent SA Express on the path to business rescue.

SCOPA member and Democratic Alliance MP, Alf Lees, asked Ndyamara what the funding expectations were for the parties interested in buying or investing in the airline.

He also asked what actions have been taken to hold accounting officers accountable for a failure to pay the South African Revenue Service or pay over Unemployment Insurance Fund provisions.

Ndyamara said the North Gauteng High Court ruling empowered liquidators to inquire about specific transactions at the airline. He agreed that there were statutory payments that were not honoured.

"We are extremely early in the liquidation process. It is early stages. If you look at the extension of our powers, it looks at inquiries where we can investigate these affairs and transgressions that may have happened before business rescue or liquidation," he said.

ANC MP Mervyn Dirks, meanwhile, said a litany of leadership failures at SA Express meant there were "never investors for this airline, there were only vultures".

Committee chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa, meanwhile, said National Treasury must come before the committee and explain its role as it relates to finance and the overall approach of government to SA Express.

 

Credit: Fin24

South African banks and the government are looking for ways to boost take up of an up to 200 billion rand ($11.58 billion) loan scheme to help coronavirus-hit businesses, two bank executives and a source close to the discussions told Reuters.

Possible amendments being discussed include encouraging banks to ease their lending conditions, the source close to the discussions said.

"There are minor issues around the design," the source continued, including wording in the terms that has led to banks applying their standard credit procedures and rejecting more applications than anticipated.

The scheme, launched in May, was meant to encourage banks to lend more, on more favourable terms, to small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic.

But concerns arose that the money -- 40% of President Cyril Ramaphosa's 500 billion rand economic stimulus package -- was not being fully used after big banks approved only a few billion rand of loans in the first few weeks.

Lenders, the treasury and the central bank are in regular talks on the issue, the source said, with finance minister Tito Mboweni keen to announce changes to the scheme in his emergency budget on June 24.

Goolam Kader, business banking managing executive at Nedbank (NEDJ.J), said the lender is working closely with the Banking Association South Africa (BASA) to identify potential improvements.

He added that Nedbank did not apply credit criteria that are different from usual when assessing loan requests made under the scheme, but that various factors affected take up, including its other efforts to help customers.

Standard Bank referred Reuters to BASA, which declined to comment. FirstRand and South Africa's treasury did not provide comment by a deadline.

Jaco le Roux, chief risk officer of relationship banking at Absa's retail and business bank, said it did apply different criteria as well as imposing requirements like a bond over property less often.

Other features being discussed include raising the turnover threshold for eligible companies from 300 million rand, expanding the list of things businesses can spend the money on and the type of loans banks can extend, and lengthening the term of payment holidays, le Roux and the source said.

Take up has already accelerated to around 7 billion rand and could double within days, the source continued. There may have been a lag as businesses considered their options.

Stuart Theobald, chairman of Intellidex, which presented to government on how to design a scheme, said it did not seem to be working as intended, citing issues like the banks often requiring personal guarantees for the loans, as is standard in South Africa.

"This is not meant to be banking as usual," he said. "You want banks to behave as if they are in the best of times ... but the design of it is such that they can't actually do that."

 

Reuters

Edcon Holdings Ltd.’s administrators are fast-tracking a plan to sell all or parts of the business to keep South Africa’s second-largest clothing retailer in operation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interested buyers will be invited to carry out due diligence with binding offers expected by the end of June, according to a rescue plan released on Tuesday. Salaries have continued to be paid through this month and remain a priority, according to the plan. Johannesburg-based Edcon has at least 18,000 workers, with suppliers employing thousands more.

The owner of the Edgars and Jet chains filed for administration last month after losing 2 billion rand ($119 million) in sales as a result of South Africa’s lockdown to contain the new coronavirus. Clothing stores were among those forced to close for five weeks through April, and were only allowed to open with limited ranges in May.

The company had been struggling before the crisis, securing 2.7 billion rand from lenders, landlords and the Public Investment Corp. in a 2019 restructuring plan that freed the retailer of all interest-bearing debt. South African consumer spending has been lackluster for several years as weak economic growth and high unemployment eroded disposable income.

Administrators led by Piers Marsden and Lance Schapiro opted for a sale plan after finding no investors for the business. A successful transfer of ownership will at least save some Edcon jobs, they said.

 

Bloomberg

The COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the vulnerability of the livelihoods of many South Africans, and highlighted food insecurity as one key aspect. Many now argue that reducing the vulnerability of the livelihoods of the poor, and associated food insecurity, must become a key focus of policy.

Some assert that structural reform, tackling these problems at their root, is required more urgently than before. Land reform has this potential. It is, in any case, a political necessity. If successful, it could play a significant role in reducing the vulnerability and food insecurity of the rural population, who are one third of the population, as well as some urban residents. Enhancing employment and thus incomes is one key thrust of pro-poor land reform.

Land reform is necessary in post-apartheid South Africa to help address inherited historical injustices, especially those resulting from land dispossession of the black majority. It involves the restitution of land to individuals and communities who lost their homes and land due to forced removals. It also creates secure rights to land held by the black majority. In addition, the process aims to create a more equitable pattern of land ownership.

Land reform since the end of apartheid in 1994 has encountered many difficulties, and progress has been slow. One problem is that elites have captured many of the benefits. Another is the limited impact thus far on poverty and unemployment.

A recent study commissioned by the government and funded by the European Union, and conducted by experts from different institutions, with me as the leader, focused on the potential contribution of redistributive land reform to employment creation.

The key questions addressed in the study were: can land redistribution be undertaken in a manner that creates jobs? If so, through which commodity mix and and what kinds of farming systems, operating at what scales? And what is the potential of small-scale farming in particular?


Read more: Urban spread is turning the lives of Ghanaian farmers upside down


Despite its many limitations – such as the lack of a quantitative survey due to time constraints – the study breaks new ground by investigating the potential for employment creation in specific locations, focused on specific commodities and building on local knowledge.

The study revealed a considerable, unmet demand for land by both smallholders and small-scale commercial farmers.

Findings

The study found that land reform can assist in creating more employment-intensive farming systems by:

  • reducing the size of farming units, while increasing their total numbers;

  • changing the mix and scale of farm commodities produced; and

  • changing farming systems so that they become more employment-intensive.

A number of assumptions informed the study. “Employment” included both employment by others and self-employment. Potential gains are calculated in terms of net jobs – the total new jobs created after deducting the number of jobs “displaced” through redistribution of the land on which existing farms are located. These are estimated as “full time equivalents” – a job was assumed to involve working a 40 hour week.


Read more: Small-scale farmers should be at the centre of land reform in South Africa


In estimating net job gains, the study assumes that 50% of the land under large-scale farming at present will be redistributed to small-scale black farmers. This illustrates the order of magnitude of potential impacts on employment. Costs to the state involve both land acquisition (at market prices) and set-up costs.

In the four municipalities in which the study took place, net job creation amounted to the equivalent of 23 691 permanent jobs. The commodities which land redistribution beneficiaries could begin to farm included subtropical fruit and nuts in Limpopo, grapes and lucerne in the Western Cape, maize and wool in the Eastern Cape, and extensive livestock (goats and cattle) in KwaZulu-Natal. Vegetables with high levels of labour intensity are key in all four municipalities.

The cost per net job varies from R325 425 in KwaZulu-Natal to R685 311 in the Western Cape.

The findings have major implications for the targeting and selection of beneficiaries, commodities and farming systems.

It shows that that extensive livestock production, including wool, offers key opportunities. The bulk of the land surface of South Africa is not suitable for cropping, and livestock production is likely be the dominant land use on redistributed farms. Net gains in its employment intensity are thus significant at the national scale, if modest at farm level. This can be enhanced if new and more employment-intensive value chains are created (as shown clearly in the KwaZulu-Natal case).

Small scale farmers struggle to find markets for their products. EFE-EPA/Halden Krog

Given expanding market demand for fresh vegetables, these crops offer important opportunities for small-scale black producers. Their potential for employment creation is particularly significant.

Challenges and recommendations

Key challenges for land reform projects include improved access to irrigation water, formal and informal markets, and effective extension and advisory services. High-value subtropical fruit, nuts and grapes by small-scale producers have great potential, but this must be balanced against their high capital and running costs, and technically demanding character.

A key consideration is how to enhance access to markets and value chains (including agro-processing). Climate change is also likely to have highly negative impacts on all scales and forms of agriculture, even though its precise nature and timing remain uncertain.

The study also considers a number of policy issues, such as the allocation of farm production units of appropriate sizes, land tenure options, and the design of effective support services.

It recommends the decentralised implementation of land reform and discusses the need for complementary policies in relation to support for informal agricultural markets, water allocation reform, environmental management and climate change, state procurement, and improved data collection.

Trade-offs

Land policy always involves difficult trade-offs, in this case between capital intensity and employment intensity, and between creating more jobs and paying decent wages. These have to be carefully weighed up and steered in a practical manner.

Clearly, finding the funds for land reform will not be easy. But if significant reductions in unemployment through land reform focused on small-scale farming are indeed feasible, as argued in this study, then it might well be worth the effort to find the requisite funds.

When South Africa eventually emerges from the fog of the COVID-19 crisis, structural reform, including land reform, will be high on the political agenda as never before. A key question is: will policy makers be ready to grasp the nettle of farm scale, and promote the large-scale redistribution of land to small-scale producers?The Conversation

 

Ben Cousins, Emeritus Professor, Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A South African High Court has declared the government’s lockdown regulations unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid, driving a coach and horses through its COVID-19 strategy.

Justice Norman Davis found that both the level 3 and level 4 regulations are “irrational”. The government has five COVID-19 alert levels, from level 5 down to level 1, when most normal activity can resume.

After two months of enduring one of the most stringent lockdowns of any country, there have been signs of restlessness in some communities. As the government added greater detail to the regulations, when the country moved from level 5 to level 3, the credibility of restrictions has been stretched.

But the legal and governance impact of this week’s judgment is far-reaching. It will heap further unwelcome pressure onto a government that is already under intense pressure as it tries to navigate a complex, wholly unfamiliar and ever-changing decision-making terrain.

The judgment declares that the regulations are invalid. But, with the exception of some, it suspends the declaration of invalidity for 14 days to allow the Minister of Cooperative Governance, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to

review, amend and republish the regulations (with) due consideration to the limitation each regulation has on the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights contained in the constitution.

This requires the government to redo the work that it has done in preparing, and then promulgating, the regulations. It also creates a new layer of uncertainty to an already highly fluid situation.


Read more: Rule of law has moved centre stage in lockdown: what it is and why it matters


During the 14-day period, the newly instituted level 3 regulations, which reopened a large part of the economy and allowed the sale of alcohol, will remain in force. But, the judgment means that it will not be possible for the government to revert to the old level 4 regulations without a substantial rewrite.

An appeal by government to the Constitutional Court is highly likely, and highly desirable. It is hard to think of a more significant judgment in terms of how many people and how wide a sweep of the economy it affects.

But, in my view, the judgment is unconvincing in many respects and has applied the law incorrectly.

Given the stakes, it is important that it is properly understood and held up for public scrutiny.

Rationality test

For a government decision to be held by the court to be “irrational” does not mean that the court finds the decision itself to not be based on logical reasons or clear thinking.

Instead, the rationality test permits the court to review a decision based on an assessment of whether there is a rational connection between the government decision, the process used to reach it, and a legitimate government purpose.

The court notes that the government’s affidavit had argued that the “means justify the end” and, therefore, the regulations pass the rationality test. But, Justice Davis then observed that he wondered aloud during argument whether in fact the government actually intended to apply the Machiavellian notion of the “end justifies the means”.

As the judgment unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that he takes a dim view of the reasonableness (not rationality) of a good deal of the government’s decision-making, thereby potentially confusing the law.

He finds, for example, that:

Restricting the right to freedom of movement in order to limit contact with others in order to curtail the risks of spreading the virus is rational, but to restrict the hours of exercise to arbitrarily determined time period is completely irrational.

The court’s responsibility was to see if there was any rational connection between the decision and the purpose, not whether there was a better means of serving the end goal.

Moreover, it requires the court to examine with great precision each and every step of the decision-making process, and to assess the evidence of how the decision was taken and whether, in an objective sense, the decision was correctly deemed to be in service of the purpose.

Justice Davis’s judgment fails to do so. Although, if government did an inadequate job at placing sufficient evidence of their reasoning and decision-making process, then they are partly at least the architects of their own misfortune.

Regardless, Justice Davis appears to review both sets of regulations and then pick out the ones that displease him most in terms of whether they “make sense” to him or not, and to declare all of them invalid, and not just those that he has sought to apply the rationality test to.

The reference to evidence is scanty. For example, the court observes – without any citation – that millions of South Africans in the informal sector have less daily contact than people attending a funeral, making the “blanket ban” on them “appear to be irrational”.

Holes in the argument

The court describes the approach of the government as “a paternalistic approach, rather than a constitutionally justifiable approach”.

Paternalism may be politically or ideologically unattractive to some, especially libertarians. But, it is not, per se, a constitutionally impermissible policy or strategic position for the government to adopt, pandemic crisis or not.

Waste recyclers queue for food handouts in Johannesburg as the nationwide lockdown left them unable to work. EFE-EPA/Kim Ludbrook

The judgment may also be vulnerable to attack for adopting a simplistic approach to the “legitimate government purpose”, which it finds to be solely to contain the spread of the virus. This is a misunderstanding.


Read more: Numbers can kill: politicians should handle South Africa's coronavirus data with care


The risk-adjusted strategy that creates the framework of different COVID-19 alert levels, under the Disaster Management Act 2002, seeks to strike a balance at every stage of the unfolding crisis between competing and overlapping priorities.

This includes the public health priority of building capacity in the health system to absorb an inevitable rise in infections, and the duty of the state to protect lives and livelihoods.

The other puzzling aspect of the judgment relates to its approach to the Bill of Rights and possible limitation of the rights enshrined in it.

Clearly, the lockdown involved the limitation of certain “normal” freedoms. The question is whether the limitations are constitutionally permissible, and uphold section 36 of the constitution. This requires that such limitations be proportional. This means that the government may use only the least restrictive measure for achieving its aim.

But, having found the regulations to be irrational and therefore invalid, the court had no need to consider whether they unjustifiably infringed any right protected in the Bill of Rights. Justice Davis bluntly finds that:

…in an overwhelming number of instances the Minister (sic) have not demonstrated that the limitation of the Constitutional rights already mentioned, have been justified in the context of section 36 of the Constitution.

Confusingly, the court order requires the government not to fix the impugned “irrationality” of the regulations, but instead to review them with regard to whether they may infringe the Bill of Rights.

Rule of law

Government lawyers, as well as cabinet ministers and officials, will be scratching their heads over this judgment. Not least because the notion of a “rationally justifiable” infringement of constitutional rights is a novel formulation.

Whether the judgment is overturned on appeal or not, what it shows – once again – is that South Africa’s rule of law and its judicial independence are alive and kicking.

At a time of such extreme crisis, courts may be inclined to give the government a little more latitude – such as the decision of the German Supreme Court last month, in finding that its government has a wide scope for the assessment, evaluation and design of its COVID-19 response.

As South Africa’s Constitutional Court has found in other cases involving complex public policy and socio-economic rights, the more “polycentric” the governmental decision-making or policy choice, the more careful the court should be not to stray into the executive’s lane. Nothing could be as polycentric as COVID-19.

This is not to say that government should be given a free hand or a blank cheque. A state of national disaster cannot permit lawmaking through the back door, nor enable a slippery slope into autocracy. Far from it. As the High Court judgment shows, government will have to work hard to ensure that it is acting within the law, respecting hard won rights every step of the way.The Conversation

 

Richard Calland, Associate Professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Always on the lookout for permanent work, a job advert on Facebook for general workers at South African energy company Sasol seemed timely. But oddly, the post on the aptly named “Jobs Opportunities” page required those interested in applying to comment on it.

Kalunga posted a comment, and waited hopefully. That was the last he would hear of it, even though the page remained active. 

“There was no response, they have not come back to me. I can just see other people commenting also,” he told us.

What he didn’t know was that the job advert was part of an elaborate online scam targeting South Africa’s unemployed, who according to Stats SA’s most recent data numbered nearly 6.7 million in December 2019. 

That number could rise as the economy flies into Covid-19-induced turbulence, setting up even more jobseekers for pain at the hands of fraudsters. 

False job adverts common but easy to spot

Facebook has changed how we socialise online, but is unfortunately also a home for bad information, which ranges from bogus health cures and everyday hoaxes to rumoured deaths. And then there are the job scams, which from our experience are some of the most resilient, targeting both the most vulnerable and the more guarded.

The platform is littered with pages advertising vacancies that do not exist. One repeat offender has consistently advertised nonexistent jobs, including at the South African Social Security Agency, clothing retailer Mr Price and private hospital network Netcare

Often, these false adverts are easy to spot. They tend to be badly written and the links don’t take you to an official website. But many times, it is not as straightforward to pick them out. 

The “Jobs Opportunities” page that raised Kalunga’s hopes previously masqueraded as “Employment Opportunities” before a rebrand. Created in November 2018, it has 50,000 followers. Each job advert it posts attracts hundreds of comments from people looking for work. For example, the advert for general workers at Sasol had more than 1,000 comments.

But the posts don’t directly ask for an application fee – a sure red flag we’ve seen many timeselsewhere. So what then is the end game? 

‘We’ll help if you share this post in 10 groups’

To understand this, a simple overview of the “application” process helps.

The Sasol advert, for example, asks Facebook users to “pliz comment” on the post, stating which of South Africa’s nine provinces they live in. Once you’ve done this, you get a response asking you to share the post in 10 groups. The post also includes a link to a web page where you can apply online. 

People are told sharing the post gives them a good chance of getting the job.

This is the basic modus operandi of several other Facebook pages, including the “Mzansi Careers” page, and others, with hundreds of thousands of followers. 

How does it all work?

Why are jobseekers told to share the post before they can apply for a job? 

The short and obvious answer is so that the scammers can line their pockets. For this to happen a trinity of sorts is essential. First, the Facebook posts lure the victims. Link aggregators then act as a bridge and, finally, Google AdSense ties it up by bringing in the money.

But how do they do it? Africa Check and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Labinvestigated. 

Facebook pages, and less often groups, are used to entice people to engage with the scammer’s network. The network generally focuses on education funding and employment – reliable magnets for people looking for opportunities 

The Facebook posts do not directly link to a job portal or employment website. Rather, when you click the link on a “Jobs Opportunities” post you are taken to a //manylink.co/@careers24" Manylink.com page with more links. This is a link aggregator, and there are lots of them.

A screenshot of the link aggregator used by the scam network.

Link aggregators have legitimate uses and allow users to share many links (or uniform resource locators – URLs – which are the unique addresses of web pages) at once. For some detail on how Manylink works, click here.

They allow you to customise what you want your readers to see. Clicking the customised link in the Facebook post takes you to a landing page with even more links, each seemingly offering different authentic-looking job or training opportunities. 

The Jobs Opportunities landing page is branded as “@careers24”, which resembles Careers24.com, a legitimate career and jobseeker portal in the Media24 group.

When you click any of these new links, you are taken to a fairly basic web page at www.jobscamp.co.za.

At least 760,000 South Africans fooled in 2020

Contacted about the page, Manylink founder Cruize Delaney told Africa Check he had seen an increase in traffic from South Africa since the beginning of 2020. 

“I wondered why this was. I went deeper into my analytics and saw some job sites and pages similar to how you describe that did look unusual,” he said. “That URL you’ve shown me is where a solid amount of South Africa traffic comes from.”

Delaney said “around 760,000” South Africans had visited Manylink so far in 2020. 

Manylink is free to use. Links are currently not reviewed but Delaney said a new version would include tools to help remove users who violated the terms of service. 

Traffic = $$$

Fake job adverts on the Jobs Camp website.

The text for the many job listings on www.jobscamp.co.za is copied from old genuine job adverts or bursary application calls. The closing dates are either deleted or altered to make them seem current. In some cases, the adverts do not explain how, or where, applications must be submitted. In a nutshell, it is a waste of your time.

The website does not list any contact information or any meaningful way to identify the owners. Even username enumeration, which identifies website authors, only revealed that a user labelled “admin” is the main account for the website.

But records revealed that the website was registered by a man from Thohoyandou in Limpopo on 13 August 2019. His name is known to us.

We contacted the registrant to confirm if he was posting fake job adverts on the website and whether he was earning any money doing so. Although the questions were read and acknowledged, he did not respond despite saying he would. (Note: We will update this report should he do so.)

How much money do they make?

The resulting traffic to the website is monetised using Google AdSense, which allows publishers such as website owners to earn money from their online content. 

AdSense estimates that you can earn as much as US$4,500 from 50,000 page views a month. A page view is logged every time a web page is loaded and viewed by a human visitor.

But it also has a strong caution: there’s no guarantee you’ll earn this amount. Actual revenue depends on factors such as advertiser demand, user location, user device, seasonality, ad size and currency exchange rates.

Depending on the advertising model used by the website, Google will either pay for every 1,000 people who see the advert or for each click. In 2017 South African news website Groundup reported earning $0.61 for each 1,000 views. Substantially more is earned when visitors click on ads, with some users reporting about $0.55 per click.

But it is not possible to determine if, or how much, the owner of www.jobscamp.co.za makes from Google adverts. 

‘I feel like they’re playing with us and that’s not right’

CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring platform, revealed that the @careers24 Manylink page was posted more than 500 times on Facebook, to a total of 28.2 million followers.

Njabulo Khumalo from Johannesburg could have been one of them. 

He had been unemployed for two years when he came across the “Employment Opportunities” page during a job search. “I joined a few groups hoping one day somebody will call me but I guess not. I haven’t got anything so far,” he told Africa Check.

And he won’t. He is just one of hundreds of thousands of people lured into an extensive network designed to make money off advert revenue – and off their hopes.

“Some people really depend on these posts. Then you get these people posting jobs on Facebook and at the end of the day nothing happens. I mean that’s really wasting people’s time. I feel like they’re playing with us and that’s not right.” 

 

Cayley Clifford is a researcher at Africa Check. Jean le Roux is a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.


 

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