Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global coronavirus cases continue to rise, now sitting at 3,727,936 confirmed. To date, 258,344 people have died, and 1,242,432 have recovered, leaving 2,227,160 active cases, where 49,248 people are in serious or critical condition. In South Africa, cases have increased to 7,572, with deaths at 148. Recoveries remain at 2,746.
- Black and white issue: Finance minister Tito Mboweni says that government’s coronavirus financial support should not discriminate against any businesses owners, whether they are black or white – as long as the businesses are viable and can create jobs. A mixed message, as the tourism department’s BEE-driven support scheme faces a possible Constitutional Court challenge. The department’s financial aid scheme is being doled out according to BEE status, leaving many white business owners without a lifeline. [TimesLive]
- Hard numbers: Trade and Industry minister Ebrahim Patel dismissed reports that South Africa’s economy was rapidly declining, calling the doom and gloom numbers a “thumb suck”, while talking up the economy. SARS on Tuesday, however, gave the hard numbers to prove Patel wrong. Compared to a year ago, revenue collection from SARS was down by R9.9 billion, with the tax collector warning that the country would fall short by R285 billion in 2020 due to the lockdown. [Daily Maverick]
- Smoking gun: Tobacco traders have laid out four main arguments against the ban on cigarettes. 1. There has been no proven link between tobacco and Covid-19. 2. If health was the concern, why did government allow junk food to be sold? 3. Government only listened to non-smokers in making its decision, ignoring smokers’ input. 4. The swift reversal of president Ramaphosa’s position shows there was little to no consultation taking place. Meanwhile, SARS said that there is clear evidence that illicit trade has increased since the ban. [TimesLive]
- School matters: When it comes to paying school fees at private and public schools, parents have been urged to keep paying full fees where they can, even though there is no clear timeline for when their children will return. If parents can’t afford to keep paying, in both sectors they will have to approach their respective governing body to determine a plan, as government is unlikely to step in. However, parents have been cautioned to take into consideration how non-payment will affect the school, teachers, and potential future of their child’s education at the school. 
- Markets: The rand firmed on Tuesday, shaking off a batch of poor domestic data recently, as moves by several countries to ease coronavirus lockdowns lifted global risk appetite. Yields on government bonds fell sharply, reflecting strong prices, as the first weekly bond auction since South Africa’s exclusion the World Government Bond Index (WGBI) attracted strong demand. On Wednesday, the rand was trading at R18.50 to the dollar, R23.01 to the pound and R20.06 to the euro. [XE]