Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 58.3 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.38 million. In South Africa, there have been 2,270 new cases, taking the total reported to 767,679. Deaths have reached 20,903 (a daily increase of 58), while recoveries have climbed to 710,099, leaving the country with a balance of 36,677 active cases.
- Covid surge: Nelson Mandela Bay hospitals are being overwhelmed by the surge in Covid-19 cases in the metro, while medical staff are themselves falling ill, and showing signs of burnout. Authorities are blaming the surge on reckless behaviour and non-adherence to social distancing and hygiene protocols. The metro has put preventative measures in place, but residents are simply ignoring them. Problem areas are bars, taverns, night clubs, and places where people crowd, like post offices and shopping centres and malls. [ENCA]
- Soweto debt: Eskom has written off 40% – or R8 billion – of the R18 billion debt owed to it by Soweto customers. R2.6 billion of the amount is debt that has prescribed, with the rest of the debt being unlawful – breaking the common law that interest accrued on debt may not be more than the original debt owed. This debt is tied to over 10,500 customers who accrued the charges over 15 years. Eskom is moving Soweto onto prepaid meters, to better manage non-payment. [Moneyweb]
- Vaccine wait: With a couple of Covid vaccines ready to roll out ‘within weeks’, South Africans are likely to be in for a long wait, with medical experts indicating that we will only see the vaccines around mid- to late-2021. Countries that put the most money into the vaccine, such as the USA, will get access to the treatments first. In South Africa, a vaccine will also be prioritised for health workers, patients with comorbidities, the elderly and other people considered high risk, before hitting the general population. [EWN]
- Step aside: The ANC will this week make a decision on its ‘step aside’ rule around corruption-accused officials remaining in positions of power. The party has reportedly received legal opinion saying that a direction to remove such individuals without an outcome from legal proceedings would be unlawful. The step-aside rule was meant to be a voluntary action from those in these positions – however an order from the party to do so would amount to a suspension. Corruption accused are claiming innocent until proven guilty. [News24]
- Markets: Friday’s surprise downgrades by Moody’s and S&P did little to dampen the rand in overnight markets, as the local unit continued to hold firm and even claw back some ground. The pressure on the dollar as Covid-19 numbers rise, helped to maintain the rand at stable levels. Manufacturing and services PMI are due from the UK as well as the US today. The rand starts the day at R15.37 to the dollar, R18.25 to the euro and R20.47 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]