Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 143.5 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.06 million. In South Africa, there have been 853 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,568,366. Deaths have reached 53,887 (a daily increase of 130), while recoveries have climbed to 1,494,630, leaving the country with a balance of 19,849 active cases. The vaccine rollout is still paused.
- Power ships: Government’s plan to use power ships to supplement South Africa’s strained power supply has come under intense scrutiny, with the energy department – but not its minister, Gwede Mantashe – facing a barrage of questions in parliament. The use of the ships has been questioned by energy experts and civil society groups, who have criticised the cost of energy supplied by the ships, as well as raising concerns over the massively damaging impact on the environment that they have. Questions have also been raised over exemptions to certain processes that were allowed, as well as the length of the 20-year contracts for the companies involved. [Moneyweb]
- Cape Town fires: The fires that ravaged Cape Town this week are estimated to have done between R500 million and R1 billion worth of damage – though experts say that it’s likely too early to tell the real cost, as the fire destroyed many heritage sites and priceless works in libraries. The fire has been brought under control, and mop-up operations are underway. The fire, which reportedly started at the Rhodes Memorial, destroyed two homes, caused damaged to six buildings at UCT, and gutted two heritage sites. It swept over 650 hectares of veld on Table Mountain. [Daily Maverick]
- Not about race: Absa has dismissed speculative claims that the exit of CEO Daniel Mminele had to do with race, or the group’s transformation strategy. Absa Group chair Wendy Lucas-Bull says that the financial group’s board and Mminele had been butting heads for some time over how to implement the bank’s existing strategy at an operational level. The CEO also didn’t see eye-to-eye with and have the support of the bank’s business leaders. Absa and Mminele said in a joint statement that his departure was an agreed-upon outcome to the situation. [Fin24]
- Bad education: Education experts are worried that the stop-start schooling of 2020, as well as the school closures throughout the year, have adversely impacted school children at the foundational phase. At the core of this is learning to read, which underpins learning in all other subjects – in 2020, due to the nature of the education programme, many learners would have not been able to do so. This then has a ripple effect on all other subjects and school years, which may lead to long-term damage being done, with learners disadvantaged as they move through grades. [TimesLive]
- Markets: A dramatic uptick in Covid-19 cases in India, Turkey and other parts of the world, saw the risk rally taper down, after stocks and commodity-driven currencies reached highs earlier this week. The rand retreated as risk assets blew off steam, however levels still remain extremely appealing. It’s all eyes on UK CPI and the BoE today, while local CPI will also give us an indication of potential future SARB interest rate action. We start the day at R14.31/$, R17.21/€ and R19.93/£. [Citadel Global]