Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 115 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.55 million. In South Africa, there have been 566 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,513,959. Deaths have reached 50,077 (a daily increase of 84), while recoveries have climbed to 1,431,336, leaving the country with a balance of 32,546 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 73,047.
- High demands: Public sector unions are aiming high with their wage demands, telling government they expect a CPI+4% increase to salaries this year, as they enter negotiations with government, who has vowed to cut the wage bill by billions. Insiders say that the union leaders are struggling to appear relevant, after losing a court battle against government to stop a wage freeze in 2020. In contrast to previous years, unions are now hoping an explosive public campaign around its demands will show them as active. [EWN]
- Tax incentives no more: National Treasury has reminded taxpayers that four tax incentives are being sunset over the next year. Tax incentives in respect of airport and port assets, rolling stock, and low-cost residential units have a sunset clause of February 28, 2022. The film incentive, which provides for the exemption from normal tax of income derived from the exploitation rights of approved films, expires on January 1, 2022. [Moneyweb]
- Tobacco battle: South Africa’s tobacco ban saga continues, with the High Court granting Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma leave to appeal a December ruling that the five month tobacco ban under lockdown was unconstitutional and invalid. Leave was granted because two court rulings on the ban reached different conclusions – for and against the minister – meaning there are grounds for the matter to proceed to the Supreme Court of Appeal. [Mail & Guardian]
- Impeachment: Parliament’s independent review panel has found that there are prima facie grounds to impeach public protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane – and her detractors are not wasting any time in pushing through demands that proceedings to do so move ahead immediately. Mkwhebane has had a torrid time in court, with many adverse rulings against her, questioning her capacity and capabilities as public protector, understanding of the law, independence and fitness to hold the office. [TimesLive]
- Markets: The market took a breather from bond selling which saw some stability return to the currencies, however this did little for the rand as it continued to trade in the R14.90-R15.25 range. For now, markets wait new direction, with specific focus on the Biden stimulus package, global inflation as well as the upcoming Chinese parliamentary sitting that will set the course for the Chinese economy. The rand starts the day trading at R15.02 to the dollar, R18.06 to the euro and R20.88 to the pound. [Citadel Global]