Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 159.6 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.32 million. In South Africa, there have been 1,129 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,597,724. Deaths have reached 54,825 (+90), while recoveries have climbed to 1,517,350, leaving the country with a balance of 25,549 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 395,230 (+12,750).
- Third wave: South Africa’s modelling of the expected third wave of Covid-19 has been disrupted by the detection of two notable variants among the population. Modelling published last week showed that the third wave would likely be smaller than the second – however, none of the scenarios documents included the presence of new variants. Should variants spread, the third wave could be bigger and deadlier than the second, the researchers said. Currently, it is not known how widespread the two variants are, with only 15 people found to be carrying them. Authorities say they are on high alert. [TimesLive]
- Not tax deductible: SARS rejected a claim of R600 million in taxable deductions for professional fees paid by Gupta and state capture-linked Regiments Capital. An audit of the group, conducted by SARS, found that the payments were mostly made to ‘letterbox companies’ tied to the Guptas, as well as several unidentifiable beneficiaries. SARS said that the payments were made not as a quid pro quo for services rendered, but as kickbacks or bribery or gratification to procure contracts – and bribes are not tax deductible. [Daily Maverick]
- Deadlock: The International Labour Organisation has been roped in to assist with South Africa’s wage deadlock between government and public service workers, as the parties work to break an impasse in negotiations. Workers are demanding a 7% increase in wages, while government is offering 0% – the latter saying that there is no money available to meet demands. Workers, meanwhile, say that it is government’s fraud and corruption that have left the coffers dry, and that workers should not be paying the price for that. South Africa’s fiscal consolidation plan relies on cutting the wage bill. About a third of the national budget goes to wages, which have been increasing far above inflation for a decade. [Fin24]
- ANC vs ANC: Suspended ANC secretary general has been ordered to apologize for a letter he sent, attempting to suspend president Cyril Ramaphosa. Magashule’s last-ditch attempt to get the upper-hand in the war between factions within the party fell flat, after Ramaphosa got backing from all decision-making structures to suspend him, and now to order an apology. If Magashule fails to apologize, more charges could be brought against him. Analysts have pegged the saga as a victory for the ‘reform’ faction within the ANC, but note that political turmoil will abound for a long time to come. [EWN, 702]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand rose to a 16-month peak against the dollar on Monday after Moody’s left its sovereign ratings unchanged, while an improving local political environment and the global market risk-on sentiment provided further support. The rand was also boosted by bets that US interest rates will remain low for some time. Lower US interest rates boost the appeal of riskier but high-yielding currencies and weigh on the dollar. On Tuesday the rand was trading at R14.07/$, R17.08/€ and R19.87/£. [Reuters]