Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 107.4 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.35 million. In South Africa, there have been 1,742 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,479,253. Deaths have reached 46,869 (a daily increase of 396), while recoveries have climbed to 1,367,247, leaving the country with a balance of 65,137 active cases.
- Tax revolts: Ratepayer associations have had enough, with several ‘tax diversion’ campaigns underway, or being contemplated. These group are willing to test the legality of such action, but are increasingly looking for ways to withhold rates and taxes from municipal structures which have failed to deliver services, and instead find ways to procure and provide these services themselves. Other methods are to withhold rates and taxes until municipalities do the repairs and maintenance they’re supposed to. [Moneyweb]
- AstraZeneca: The South African government is being urged to not dump the AstraZeneca vaccines it has procured, as the shots are still likely to prevent death and hospitalisation in serious cases of Covid-19. Medical experts also warn that how South Africa deals with the vaccine – which has been shown to be ineffective against mild cases of the local Covid variant – will have global repercussions. It has been suggested that the vaccine be given to high-risk cases. [Daily Maverick]
- Irregular: National Treasury has been taken to task by the auditor general for incurring R249 million worth of irregular spending. Treasury is supposed to be the bastion for fiscal responsibility, but spent money outside its own strict guidelines – largely on tech support and software licences. Of the irregular spend, R66 million was deemed wasteful, spent on maintenance items that were left unused. Treasury said it was identifying weak areas in its supply management processes and continually improving. [News24]
- School crisis: With schools on track to open next week, many are facing a fee crisis, with new data showing that parents are struggling to pay school fees. This has left schools struggling to survive and properly prepare the necessary Covid-19 equipment and procedures to meet the education department’s demands. The education department’s budget, meanwhile, is being cut, while some provinces are being left in the lurch by suppliers and staff, where millions of rands are owed. [ENCA. EWN]
- Markets: Little has changed in the global backdrop as markets await further details on the Democrat’s stimulus plan and start gearing up locally for tomorrow’s State of the Nation Address. However, the global optimism on economic recovery, driven by the expected enormous stimulus and widespread vaccination programmes, continues to support the rand which gained further in the overnight session. The rand starts the day at R14.71 to the dollar, R17.84 to the euro and R20.34 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [Peregrine]