Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 25.8 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 858,000. In South Africa, there have been 2,336 new cases, taking the total reported to 630,595. Deaths have reached 14,389 (an increase of 126), while recoveries have climbed to 553,456, leaving the country with a balance of 62,750 active cases.
Load shedding: Unit breakdowns and additional demand are keeping Eskom’s systems under severe strain. Load shedding stage 4 will continue on Thursday, set for 08h00 to 22h00.
- When it rains: Eskom says that stage 4 load shedding is likely to stick until the end of the week, as it continues to battle with high demand, a collapsing system, and now also growing debt. The group reported that its debt is now at R488 billion, and it is seeking to hike tariffs even further to help pay this off. The group said it needs a 25% increase in real terms, to manage its debt – but because this would negatively impact the economy, it would settle with 10% in the near term. [Daily Maverick]
- Storm has passed: Health minister Zweli Mkhize says that the Covid storm in South Africa has passed – and that government made the right call to open the economy and get people back to some semblance of normalcy. He said the focus is now on food security, the problem of income security, and unemployment – which have all been affected by the Covid crisis and nationwide lockdown. He rebuffed critics who said that people’s lives are now again in danger, warning of a second wave of infections. [Enca]
- Business as usual: More public servants are doing business with the state now than a year ago, with 1,539 cases flagged by April this year, compared to the 1,068 found in 2019 (an increase of 471). The majority of the cases were in local and provincial governments, which analysts have highlighted as being the nesting ground for most corrupt activities related to state tenders. The problem is growing across all provinces, with no declines in this activity recorded. [TimesLive]
- Warpath: Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has suspended Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Commissioner Teboho Maruping, along with other members of senior management. This follows a damning report from the Auditor General of South Africa, which found that a large number of fraudulent payments were made from the scheme. The minister said he is now on the warpath to track down every case of wrongdoing and hold those involved to account. However, watchdogs say it’s lack of oversight from the labour department that led to this. 
- Markets: A stronger dollar and domestic economic and political risk weighed on the rand, which gave back some of its gains on Wednesday. The market remains fairly static with little fresh news or events to spark movement. The dollar is holding onto recent gains, triggering a softer rand on Thursday morning, albeit within its larger range. The rand starts the day at R16.77 to the dollar, R19.85 to the euro and R22.37 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]