Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 109.4 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.4 million. In South Africa, there have been 1,744 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,491,807. Deaths have reached 47,899 (a daily increase of 78), while recoveries have climbed to 1,388,321, leaving the country with a balance of 55,587 active cases.
- Vaccines: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been given the green light to trial in South Africa, with the first doses expected to start rolling out on Wednesday (17 February). This marks the start of South Africa’s vaccine rollout, with approximately 80,000 doses available, and more coming. The government dropped its plans to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccines last week, after it was found that they were ineffective against local variants of the virus, as well as carrying an expiry date in two months. [BusinessLive]
- Sneaky SARS: A sneaky new amendment in South Africa tax laws gives SARS a 30-day interest-free ‘holiday’ when having to pay taxpayers back any money owed – while taxpayers themselves are still immediately liable for interest on any monies they owe SARS. The change came through in a recent amendment to the Tax Administration Act. Before, both SARS and taxpayers had to pay interest on any money they owed to either party. [Moneyweb]
- Step aside: The ANC’s National Executive Committee has adopted a resolution that party members who face criminal charges step aside from their roles. This should be a voluntary action, in line with recommendations from the party’s Integrity Commission. The resolution is expected to have an impact on several high-profile members of the party, most notably secretary general Ace Magashule, who has been given one month to comply. [ENCA]
- Matrics: Forensic and statistical analysis of the 2020 matric results, and investigations into the leaked science and maths papers, reveal that the leaks did not compromise the integrity of the results. Around 230 learners were in WhatsApp groups where the paper was shared, and the resultant investigations revealed that around 200 learners’ results were ‘outliers’ in results overall. Further investigations will take place – but matric results will not be blocked, and are on track to be released next week. [TimesLive]
- Markets: The dollar hit a fresh two-week low, as the recovery of the US economy remains questionable. The US Fed expressed its dovish stance last week, with the US slower in the race to economic recovery than initially expected. The US celebrates Presidents’ Day today, while China is celebrating Spring Festival. There is no significant data on the cards today. The rand starts the week at an impressive 52-week high against the USD to trade at R14.50, while other major currencies are changing hands at R17.60 to the euro and R20.16 to the pound. [Peregrine Treasury Solutions]