Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Globally recorded coronavirus cases have hit 3,646,225, with 252,408 deaths. 1,200,203 people have recovered, leaving 2,193,614 cases active, where 49,637 people are in serious or critical condition. In South Africa, recorded cases have jumped up to 7,220, with 138 deaths. 2,746 people have recovered, meaning the country has 4,336 active cases.
- Where there is smoke: Tobacco companies have filed court papers challenging the government’s decision to ban the sale of cigarettes, calling the rules irrational. They say government has not provided any evidence to back up its claims that smoking spreads the coronavirus, and accused it of buckling under the pressure of some 2,000 people, when almost 500,000 people want cigarettes back in shops. The move to ban has caused unnecessary loss of revenue, tax, economic activity and has put hundreds of jobs on the line. [Moneyweb]
- Easing on travel: Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that restrictions on long-distance travel will be eased, allowing for people to travel outside of curfew, but only in exceptional circumstances. Under lockdown level 4, inter-provincial travel is allowed, but only on a once-off basis. previously, this had to happen within curfew, with public transport having to ensure drop-off before 19h00. Now, journeys can be completed even during the declared curfew times. [Government]
- Who’s in charge: President Ramaphosa says that he is part of every decision that has been made by the National Command Council, apparently taking ownership of the controversial regulations pushed out by ministers over the last week. The president denies that he is being undermined by the ministers, who appear to be reversing announcements he has made. Analysts have noted that ministers are creating unworkable confusion through new regulations, which are attempting to micromanage the country back to health. [BusinessLive, BusinessTech]
- Quiet dismissal: Water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu has quietly fired her national response team, after allegations of corruption, and claims it was instead bankrolling a political campaign for the 2022 elections. In a letter, seen by the Mail & Guardian, Sisulu said she had to disband the team after it was brought to her attention that it was being used for purposes outside its mandate, including establishing business deals and chasing political ends. [Mail & Guardian]
- Markets: Emerging market currencies gained some momentum in the overnight session, as the dollar gave up another round of gains, with swings in sentiment causing whiplash for the volatile rand. Market focus remains on the reopening of economies, as well as the tension between the US and China. the rand firmed against the dollar on Monday, staging a technical rebound after a selloff in the previous session due to thin liquidity, while stocks closed lower. On Tuesday the rand is at R18.48 to the dollar, R23.03 to the pound and R20.15 to the euro. [XE]