Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 18.8 million confirmed cases, with the death toll rising to 708,000. In South Africa, cases have increased to 538,184, with deaths now at 9,604. Recoveries have climbed to 387,316, leaving the country with a balance of 141,264 active cases.
- Lip service: Despite promises from government to clamp down on corruption and to be transparent about procurement of Covid-19-related products during lockdown, media and civil rights groups say this is just more lip service from officials, with no real intention to follow through. These groups say they have been fighting for months to get government to release lists of politically exposed companies that have been awarded contracts – these requests have been consistently denied, with government hiding behind excuses of confidentiality. [Mail & Guardian]
- Special unit: Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says South Africa needs to establish ‘fusion centres’ to help tackle corruption, which people are calling reminiscent of the shuttered elite investigative unit, the Scorpions. The Scorpions specifically targeted corruption, and had a high conviction rate – however it was shut down in 2008. It was replaced by the Hawks, which have widely been seen as being hamstrung by capacity issues and its own problems with government interference. [Moneyweb]
- Reserved: Judgement in the court battle between Batsa and government over the country’s cigarette sales ban has been reserved. The groups spent the week in court arguing over the constitutionality of the ban, with the tobacco giant insisting it infringed on individual rights to free agency, and businesses’ rights to operate. Government meanwhile argued that the ban was put in place to save lives, and was not a permanent measure, but just a temporary one during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of people have lost their jobs as a result of the ban. [ENCA]
- Insurer clarity: South Africa’s financial watchdog is consulting with lawyers and the insurance industry on a potential test case to clarify whether insurers should pay rejected claims from firms hit by the impact of the coronavirus. Several lawsuits have been filed by individual firms, mostly in tourism and hospitality, after they were told by insurers that their policies did not cover coronavirus lockdowns. A test case would aim to provide legal certainty in the matter. [Reuters]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand fell to its lowest in 10 weeks on Thursday, as investors’ risk appetite dwindled and the dollar found some support after data showed US jobless claims fell slightly in the latest week. Fears that economic recovery across major economies are diverging have been playing out in currency markets. The rand has failed to benefit from the dollar’s decline, though, with investors sitting on the fence. On Friday the rand was at R17.53 to the dollar, R22.99 to the pound and R20.75 to the euro. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]