Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 101 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.19 million. In South Africa, there have been 7,150 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,437,798. Deaths have reached 43,105 (a daily increase of 555), while recoveries have climbed to 1,272,197, leaving the country with a balance of 122,496 active cases.
- Effective: New local studies on the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine show that it is effective against new variants of the virus discovered in the UK and South Africa. Data shows the vaccine has a 60% efficacy for the prevention of mild, moderate and severe Covid-19 in 92% of the people in the trial. The vaccine will now move to clinical development. Meanwhile, the UK variant of the virus has been detected in KZN – although virologists note that it is not spreading rapidly among the population. More variants should be expected over time. [EWN 1,2]
- Price surge: South Africans can expect to pay higher electricity prices in April, as the energy regulator Nersa gives effect to findings on imbalanced price hikes dating back as far as 2014. Previous decisions by Nersa left and imbalance of R6 billion, which Eskom will now be able to recover. The price changes are not yet known, but the power utility hopes to have the figures by the end of February 2021. Speaking on the higher prices, Eskom said that if electricity users don’t pay more, taxpayers will have to fill the gaps. [MyBroadband]
- Stealing spirits: The SAPS are reportedly refusing to return over R112,000 worth of seized alcohol from a Pretoria restaurant that was raided last week, with the manager accusing the police of orchestrating a false crime and arresting an employee in a bid to get their hands on the alcohol stock. Under lockdown level 3 last year, the SAPS unlawfully confiscated R3 million worth of stock from a different establishment in Pretoria, and were forced by court order to return it. The police could face charges of theft if not returned. [TimesLive]
- Zuma loses: The Constitutional Court has affirmed the State Capture Commission’s powers to compel former president Jacob Zuma to testify before it, though it was critical of the commission’s lack of urgency in getting the central figure to the entire saga to provide this testimony. The court said that the commission gave Zuma far too much leeway – beyond what should be granted to a witness – and allowed Zuma to derail proceedings at every turn. The country’s highest court said Zuma must appear and answer questions, and his conduct thus far has been unconstitutional. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: It’s been a bumpy ride this week, with markets tracking various announcements – particularly around rates and stimulus in the US. The rand’s trading range is now seen between R15.10 and R15.30 to the dollar. Local business confidence is due today, followed by US wages. The rand is trading at R15.23 to the dollar, R18.43 to the euro and R20.89 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]