Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 92.8 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 1.99 million. In South Africa, there have been 18,555 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,278,303. Deaths have reached 35,140 (a daily increase of 806), while recoveries have climbed to 1,030,930, leaving the country with a balance of 212,233 active cases.
- Corruption: Investigations are raising questions around possible wasteful spending or corrupt spending regarding Gauteng’s field hospitals and building capacity for Covid-19 patients – which has simply not materialised. The province promised in April 2020 to boost capacity to better deal with sick patients, yet almost 30% of hospitals are nearly full up. Hospitals being built or geared up stand incomplete or do not have staff available – begging questions on what went wrong, and how the province didn’t do what it promised. 
- Vaccine plan: Despite government’s attempts to bring more clarity to its Covid vaccination strategy, critics remain doubtful on the plan, as many of the details still remain unknown and unexplored. Government has laid out a plan using vaccines that it does not yet have in-hand – while details around timing, storage, distribution and execution of the plan are still unknown. Give the country’s poor track record of implementing plans, as well as this being the largest undertaking in its history, analysts are not hopeful. [News24]
- Under the radar: A Supreme Court ruling in December against Eskom largely flew under the radar, but has now been put in the spotlight. The ruling was against Eskom’s tactic of cutting power to municipalities that did not pay their electricity bills, with the courts saying this is not allowed. While Eskom has a legal obligation to get the money it is owed, the judges said that the utility had taken too long to do so, had management deeply involved in corruption, and were threatening other services, not just power supply, by doing so. [Daily Maverick]
- Alcohol ban: As the alcohol industry continues to suffer blows due to the alcohol ban in South Africa, hospitals and healthcare workers are making it clear that the prohibition has worked. Beds are being freed up to help treat Covid patients, and there are far fewer trauma cases to deal with amid the crisis – so much so that daily trauma cases have almost halved since the ban came into effect. The alcohol industry is not taking the ban sitting down, however, asking for tax relief, or even challenging the ban in court. [EWN]
- Markets: The rand is steady, trading in a tight range following its recovery witnessed earlier this week, while markets await details from President-elect Joe Biden regarding the fiscal stimulus package that is expected to be enormous. China posted a record trade surplus for December, as exports remain elevated amidst Covid-19. Markets will keep an eye on local business confidence today. The rand starts the day at R15.26 to the dollar, R18.53 to the euro and R20.80 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]