Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
- President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the debt relief bill into law – despite parties still having many reservations about some of its provisions. The bill allows for debt relief to be granted to those who earn a gross monthly income of no more than R7,500; have unsecured debt amounting to R50,000; and who have been found to be critically indebted by the National Credit Regulator. Estimates put this at around R20 billion in debt – a figure that could be damaging to lenders. [Business Day]
- The International Monetary Fund says that South Africa’s debt levels are reaching uncomfortable levels – approaching the rating agencies’ ‘red line’ of 60% of GDP – but says it does not yet see the need for the country to approach it for a bailout, nor has it requested one. Several commentators have mentioned an IMF bailout as been a near-term possibility for South Africa, as it struggles with low economic growth, rising unemployment, and crumbling state companies. [CNBC Africa]
- Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been ordered to pay 7.5% of costs in her personal capacity in another scathing judgement handed down by the High Court, this time in relation to her report on the Estina dairy project. The Judge in the matter said Mkhwebane was guilty of gross negligence in compiling the report, which was deemed a whitewash that ignored the role of the Guptas, Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane – key players in the project. [Daily Maverick]
- Vodacom says it will be investing R9 billion in its network this year, as it continues to expand its network coverage – particularly in rural areas. While its 3G network covers most of the population (97%) its 4G network is available to 75% of mobile users. The investment will help the replacing and modernising of base stations and boost digital services. About R300 million will be spent on batteries, which have become targets for vandals and criminals. [Reuters]
- The South African rand gained more than 1% against the dollar on Thursday, pulling back from a steep sell-off as worries about the global economy eased slightly. The rand has been on a torrid run this month, losing around 6% against the US currency on a dismal domestic growth outlook and fears the United States could tip into recession over its trade war with China. On Friday, the rand was trading at R15.23 to the dollar, R18.41 to the pound and R16.90 to the euro.