Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 112.65 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.5 million. In South Africa, there have been 998 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,505,586. Deaths have reached 49,413 (a daily increase of 263), while recoveries have climbed to 1,419,459, leaving the country with a balance of 36,714 active cases. 32,315 healthcare workers have been vaccinated as part of the rollout.
- Budget: Finance minister Tito Mboweni will deliver the 2021 budget this afternoon at 14h00. Analysts and economists are not hopeful of any significant strides in turning the South African economy around, given tight budgetary constraints and little wiggle room on both the revenue and expenditure side of the balance sheet. Opposition parties have called for government to avoid piling more taxes on to people who are already severely under pressure from the pandemic – while seeking more clarity on the costs involved with the vaccine rollout. [EWN]
- Close ties: Two people close to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize have reportedly benefitted from Covid-19 contracts with the health department, totalling R82 million. The people – the minister’s former spokesperson and his former private secretary – are involved with a company dealing with communication contracts with the department, where exact tasks, responsibilities and outcomes are unknown. The department has denied conflict of interest, one of the people denied any corruption – but the contracts are being investigated further. [Daily Maverick]
- Worrying trend: While education minister Angie Motshekga has expressed relief at ‘only’ a 5.1 percentage point decline in the country’s matric pass rate, analysts have not been as kind, saying that it is bad news for the country no matter which way you try to cut it. Particular focus has been placed on maths and science – subjects needed for further study in STEM fields, which are in high demand in the country. Trends show a continued decline in results for these subjects, with fewer learners electing to take them on altogether. [MyBroadband]
- Copy cat: At least one state capture witness is now following the example of former president Jacob Zuma in defying the commission, refusing to appear to give testimony. A businessman has been accused of unduly benefitting to the tune of billions from Prasa, but has now refused to appear before the commission. He has reportedly cited reasons identical to those given by Zuma, who is openly violating a Constitutional Court order that he appear before the commission. [TimesLive]
- Markets: All eyes might be on Finance Minister Mboweni today as he takes on the task of delivering the National Budget Speech, but US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony last night put fresh pressure on the dollar. It’s quiet on the data front today, with the US releasing new home sales. The rand kicks the day off at R14.54 to the dollar R17.68 to the euro and R20.61 to the pound. [Citadel Global]