Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 20.6 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 750,000. In South Africa, there have been 3,946 new cases, taking the total reported to 572,865. Deaths have reached 11,270, while recoveries have climbed to 437,617, leaving the country with a balance of 123,978 active cases.
Load shedding: Stage 2 load shedding will again be implemented today, starting at 08h00, and ending at 22h00.
- Lockdown lite: President Cyril Ramaphosa is reportedly expected to address the nine provinces on a move to a lower lockdown on Saturday, with an address to the nation anticipated to follow thereafter. Speculation is rife that the move will remove the prohibitions on the sale of tobacco and alcohol, but there is no certainty at this stage. However, experts have said that whatever the easing entails, it’s important that restrictions on gatherings remain in place, as well as the mandatory use of masks and other social distancing measures. [Mail & Guardian]
- Economic crisis: Organised labour, government and other partners are pinning South Africa’s economic recovery hopes on infrastructure development, and have agreed to set up a task team to finalise and urgent plan around this. Ramaphosa and Nedlac have been in meetings about the issue, with the general view being that South Africa needs to open up its economy as soon as possible to execute these plans. There is also an urgent need for job creation, with industries bleeding due to lockdown. [Moneyweb]
- Resurgence: As South Africa contemplates a move to a lighter lockdown, the World Health Organisation says that the reason Europe has seen a sudden resurgence in cases is because of relaxed rules. On the plus side, however, the number of deaths has not risen in proportion to the number of new infections. Back home, Ministerial Advisory Committee Chairperson Professor Salim Abdool Karim says that, even on a lower lockdown level, restrictions on mass gatherings should not be eased yet. [EWN, ENCA]
- Bags of money: Witnesses testifying at the Zondo Commission into State Capture report seeing high ranking government officials passing through the Gupta compound in Saxonwold, and tell of these prominent persons leaving with literal bags of cash. The witnesses are security personnel working in close proximity to the events at the time – while the prominent persons mentioned include the likes of Malusi Gigaba, Siyabonga Gama, Garry Pita, Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The rand firmed against the dollar on Thursday as hopes of more economic stimulus in the United States waned, although fresh power cuts in South Africa limited its currency’s gains. With lending rates still relatively high in South Africa, despite deep cuts by the central bank, the rand and local bonds have seen investor inflows, but analysts have said these may offer only short-term relief. On Friday the rand is at a stable R17.45 to the dollar, R20.61 to the euro and R22.78 to the pound. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]