Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 129.5 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 2.82 million. In South Africa, there have been 1,422 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,548,157. Deaths have reached 52,846 (a daily increase of 58), while recoveries have climbed to 1,474,319, leaving the country with a balance of 20,992 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 263,878.
- Cut ties: Absa has cut ties with 24 companies directly or indirectly controlled by Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Investment Holdings – a reminiscent of the beginning of the end of the Gupta empire. The bank says keeping Sekunjalo companies as clients presents “intolerable reputational, commercial, and legal risks”. The decision was kept secret for seven months – until a chance remark in Parliament two weeks ago. [Amabhungane]
- Power ships: Despite getting approval from Eskom, the plan to use huge power ships to boost electricity generation in South Africa has not yet been given the go-ahead from Transnet, which it needs to dock on a long-term basis in local harbours. To generate up to 1,220MW of electricity, the company plans to park eight ships for two decades in the ports of Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha Bay. Cost estimations are around R200 billion, which has raised eyebrows among lawmakers and analysts. [Daily Maverick]
- Shocking: South Africans will have to fork over 15.6% more for electricity starting today, as Eskom price hikes come into effect. This is due to a February High Court ruling which allowed the power utility to raise an additional R10 billion as part of its allowable revenue for the year. The rise in power prices exacerbates another price hikes South Africans are seeing, including higher food prices and higher petrol prices coming next week. [EWN]
- Easter: Anyone travelling this long weekend should expect tighter policing from traffic officials, with roadblocks and a stronger, more visible police presence. Travel to families and religious gatherings are expected to be undeterred by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, following announcements by president Cyril Ramaphosa that gatherings would be allowed to be larger, with no changes to curfew or travel. Police will be clamping down, however, checking that taxis are adhering to protocols, and drivers are fit to drive. [ENCA]
- Markets: The rand enjoyed a good day yesterday as risk appetite returned to high-yielding currencies globally. An upbeat growth forecast for SA from Bank of America and a soft revision of the Easter lockdown regulations helped the local unit further. Markets will be slowing down ahead of the Easter weekend, despite a busier day on the data front. European retail sales figures will be followed by US employment and manufacturing data. The rand is trading at R14.78/$, R17.34/€ and R20.38/£. [Citadel Global]