Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
- The EFF is escalating its offensive against Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, attempting to disrupt the minister’s speech and ‘physcially threatening’ him during his department’s budget vote, and joining the Public Protector in defending against his bid to have her findings against him interdicted and reviewed. Gordhan has been pushing for reform in government and seeking to root out corruption. In his speech he said that those involved in corrupt activities – like stealing money from VBS Bank – should own up to it. [ENCA, TimesLive, IOL]
- After being on ice for over a year, energy minister Gwede Mantashe is bringing back talk of a nuclear energy build for South Africa, which he says the country should consider for around 2045. Nuclear energy was championed by former president Jacob Zuma, who tried to push through plans to build several new nuclear power plants. However the plans were shelved when president Cyril Ramaphosa took charge, saying it was too expensive. [Reuters]
- “We well and truly cannot go on like this,” Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told parliament. He was presenting Treasury’s budget vote, which includes promises of more bailouts and financial support for struggling state owned companies – however he added that time was running out. Mboweni said that while public companies in sectors like aviation and broadcasting were failing, private competitors were thriving. “We cannot allow this to continue,” he said. [Business Day]
- Cabinet has approved National Health Insurance, but economists are trying to do the numbers on the cost of the system, and it does not look good. According to Dr Thabi Leoka, economist at Argon Asset Management, if South Africa’s economic growth stays under 2% per annum, the cost of NHI will astronomical – over R130 billion a year. Government has given no indication where money for the scheme will come from, with taxpayers already milked dry. 
- South Africa’s rand strengthened on Thursday after the chairman of the Federal Reserve set the stage for a US interest rate cut later this month, weakening the dollar and boosting risk appetite worldwide. On Friday the rand was at R13.94 to the dollar, R17.48 to the pound and R15.71 to the dollar.