Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 43.6 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1,161,000. In South Africa, there have been 1,092 new cases, taking the total reported to 717,851. Deaths have reached 19,053 (a daily increase of 45), while recoveries have climbed to 647,833, leaving the country with a balance of 50,965 active cases.
- D-Day: It is D-Day for finance minister Tito Mboweni to deliver a ‘tight-rope’ mid-term budget – with demands coming from all sectors of society. The minister will present the budget at 14h00. The main concern around the budget is South Africa’s growing debt, which is projected to be R3.97 trillion (81.8% of GDP) in 2020/21. The MTBPS is used to address government spending, with more bailouts for SOEs expected, as well as the impact of Covid-19 spending on the numbers. [Daily Maverick]
- Hard lockdown: President Cyril Ramaphosa says he will address the nation – likely next week – around the current state of the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he has flatly dismissed speculation that the country would be returning to hard lockdown. There were growing concerns that South Africa would re-enter level 5 lockdown, after KZN premier Sihle Zikalala said it was on the card. The president said there was no need to panic – but warned that government was seeing a steady increase in new Covid cases. [TimesLive]
- E-tolls: Until government says otherwise, road agency Sanral says Gauteng’s e-tolls remain in place and drivers are expected to pay up. Compliance to the system has dropped below 19% as motorists in the province continue to ignore the system. Civil groups have flagged problematic wording in the newly-adopted Aarto Bill, which could see drivers fined for not paying these tolls, but this is likely to be challenged in court. Government has given no indication of a way forward for the system since last year. [Moneyweb]
- Alcohol sales: The liquor industry is pleading with government to again allow weekend sales of alcohol – saying that retailers are missing out on peak purchasing times due to lockdown restrictions, which is not only impacting jobs and threatening smaller businesses with closure, but is also allowing a growing bootleg industry – not beholden to the laws – to thrive. Under the current regulations, alcohol can only be sold for off-site consumption on Monday to Friday, between 09h00 and 17h00. 
- Markets: It’s D-Day for South Africa, as markets prepare for Tito Mboweni to present his MTBPS. The budget framework is sure to attract the attention of both investors and rating agencies as South Africa continues to grapple with sluggish economic growth, and a looming sovereign debt crisis. The rand is still basking in the glow of dollar weakness, breaking past two technical levels during trade yesterday. We start the day at R16.20 to the dollar, R19.08 to the euro and R21.11 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]