Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 112 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.5 million. In South Africa, there have been 1,429 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,503,796. Deaths have reached 49,053 (a daily increase of 113), while recoveries have climbed to 1,412,015, leaving the country with a balance of 42,728 active cases.
- Third wave: Health experts say that it is very likely that South Africa will experience a third wave of Covid-19, following the same trends seen in a bout a dozen other countries that have experienced one. However, a key factor in how a third wave plays out locally is if we have to deal with another variant of the virus. Local labs are currently running several experiments to get ahead of the mutations, planning various scenarios around immune-escape variants. [TimesLive]
- Price hikes: With a 16% hike in electricity prices already coming, Eskom says that more price hikes are on the way – necessary to bring prices in-line with costs. From April 2021, electricity prices will jump to 134 cents per kilowatt hour – but the more cost-reflective pricing is at 150 cents per kwh. Therefore, consumers should expect another 15% hike in tariffs to come by 2023. Following this ‘normalisation’ or step increase in prices, future hikes should be in line with CPI, Eskom said. [Moneyweb]
- Irregular: The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has racked up a staggering R3 billion in irregular expenditure – almost completely related to the department itself. The Auditor-General noted that the irregular spending is related to uncontrolled procurement and non-compliance with supply-chain management rules. Pre-payment of goods outside of contract terms, no-shows for booked travel, overpayment, and misuse of assets litter the books. [Daily Maverick]
- Zuma: Former president Jacob Zuma says that South Africa’s laws go too easy on criminals, which is why social cohesion is not possible. He also called on voters to hold elected officials to account for their actions. Meanwhile, he is also trying to get his corruption trial struck from the roll, complaining about delays in getting his day in court. The corruption trial is set for May 2021. Zuma has refused to take part in the state capture commission, which aims to hold officials accused of criminal activity to account. [EWN, ENCA, TimesLive]
- Markets: All eyes are on Finance Minister Mboweni this week, as he sets the tone with the National Budget Speech due to take place on Wednesday. The rand gave back some ground during the overnight session, as US bond yields continued to rise, reaching a 12-month peak. The rand starts the week at R14.72 to the dollar, R17.83 to the euro and R20.63 to the pound. [Peregrine Treasury Solutions]