Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 99.7 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.14 million. In South Africa, there have been 4,551 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,417,537. Deaths have reached 41,117 (a daily increase of 243), while recoveries have climbed to 1,241,421, leaving the country with a balance of 134,999 active cases.
- Jobs at risk: Despite the current level 3 lockdown trying to keep as much economic activity open as possible, hundreds of thousands of jobs are still at risk, economists say. The lockdown has an almost singular focus on the tourism and hospitality sector, which is critical to many provincial economies. So much so, that if every at-risk job was destroyed by the lockdown, 1.4 million people would be out of work. Provincially, this gets worse, with one in six jobs in the Western Cape at risk. The unemployment rate could go over 50% in a year. [Moneyweb]
- Vaccines: President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended government’s process in securing Covid vaccines for South Africa, saying it had to contend with wealthier countries who had a much earlier start to negotiations. However, while criticism of the late start to securing doses is rife, health workers’ main concerns are to do with the lack of planning for what to do with the doses when we have them. Doctors have voiced concern over the significant portion of the population who have expressed unwillingness to get vaccinated at all. [Bloomberg, EWN]
- Wasteful: A new investigative report reveals that the Gauteng department of education spent over R430 million in three months on ‘deep cleaning’ schools – something which was not required, recommended or mandated by the national departments of health or basic education. The money was spent with hundreds of companies, many of whom have no prior experience in the cleaning and sanitisation field. Companies charged almost R300,000 for the service. MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi says he was ‘taken aback’ at the charges. [Daily Maverick]
- State capture: As the State Capture Commission continues, it has now heard testimony around the State Security Agency, with allegations that former president Jacob Zuma used the agency’s special operations unit to target political opponents and critics. It is alleged that the SSA tried to impede president Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for the presidency, put an end to the ‘Zuma Must Fall’ protests, and even infiltrate the Fees Must Fall student movement to swing the narrative around that. Zuma has refused to appear before the commission to face any allegations. [TimesLive]
- Markets: Markets are back in jittery terrain as uncertainty around the US stimulus package as well as vaccines lingers on, seeing the rand weaken during trade on Monday. Local business confidence is due today, as well as UK unemployment and US consumer confidence. The rand starts the day treading some water at R15.26 to the dollar, R18.53 to the euro and R20.86 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]