Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 23.7 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 814,000. In South Africa, there have been 1,567 new cases, taking the total reported to 613,017. Deaths have reached 13,308 (an increase of 149), while recoveries have climbed to 520,381, leaving the country with a balance of 79,328 active cases.
- Hoax: A hoax message distributed on Tuesday about an imminent alcohol and tobacco ban is now under investigation. Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesperson Lungi Mtshali says an investigation has been launched to track the source of the voice note, saying that the message – which lead to panic buying and long queues at liquor stores – put lives at risk and set back the country’s fight against Covid-19. Spreading fake news is a criminal offence under the current regulatory framework. [Enca]
- Off-fence-ive: Disciplinary charges have been recommended against 14 senior officials for their role in the R41 million Beit Bridge border scandal, with calls for Public Works and Infrastructure minister, Patricia De Lille to take some responsibility for the fiasco. The SIU and the auditor general are investigating irregularities with the contract, which ballooned to R41 million. Taxpayers effectively paid R1 million per kilometre of border fencing that was built poorly and does not work. 
- TERS warning: The Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme benefit has been temporarily suspended, after the auditor-general flagged inconsistencies in the system. These inconsistencies involved paying the benefit to the deceases, children, those in prison, or others who would not otherwise qualify for the payment. The matter is now under investigation, with auditors being pulled in to track payments. [Moneyweb]
- Water boards: The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit has been pulled in to investigation allegations of irregularities and maladministration at two water boards – Amatola Water (Eastern Cape) and Lepelle North (Limpopo). The unit said it is working with other law-enforcement agencies to investigate allegations relating to irregularities, maladministration and other related unlawfulness at the boards. Executives have previously been fired at the boards for manipulating supply chain management processes and awarding tenders at inflated prices. [TimesLive]
- Markets: The rand extended gains against the dollar on Tuesday, as riskier currencies forged ahead after positive signals from trade talks between the US and China. A phone call between senior US and Chinese officials helped dispel concerns their trade deal could be on shaky ground because of worsening diplomatic ties. China is South Africa’s top trading partner, so the rand is particularly sensitive to news about the Chinese economy. On Wednesday the rand was at R16.82 to the dollar, R22.09 to the pound and R19.86 to the euro. Commentary by Reuters. [XE]