Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 160.3 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.33 million. In South Africa, there have been 1,548 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,599,272. Deaths have reached 54,896 (+71), while recoveries have climbed to 1,519,258, leaving the country with a balance of 25,118 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 414,372 (+19,142).
- Border: After wasting R40 million building a porous 40km border fence at Beitbridge, the Department of Public Works is again looking to put the project out to tender. However, the department and minister Patricia de Lille are being criticised by the standing committee on public accounts of moving too slowly with the project. De Lille says that 16 proposals have been received on how to better equip the border. By the end of June this will be narrowed down to three, after which they will be presented to the defence department, and only then will it go to tender. In the meantime, no repair work will be done on the existing border, as it would amount to wasteful expenditure. [Mail & Guardian]
- Abandoned: Unions are heading to court to try and force Parliament to take action on South Africa’s failing SOEs, saying that it has the power and authority to save state companies that are bleeding money. Numsa said that SOEs like Denel and SA Express have been abandoned by lawmakers, putting thousands of people at risk of losing their jobs. The union argues that Parliament needs to play a more active role in overseeing liquidation procedures, and wants the court to force it to do so – like hosting public participation processes to determine whether liquidations should go ahead or not. They want this to extend to all SOEs. [News24]
- Cash strapped: ANC deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte says the party isn’t broke, but is experiencing ‘cash flow problems’. This follows reports that the ruling party is unable to pay salaries or has to pay salaries late. Leaked audio has suggested the party is looking to reduce staff by 50% to manage its financial problems. Duarte said that part of the problem is the new Political Party Funding Act which came into effect – as some donors were hesitant for it to be made known they support the party financially, as it would be ‘bad for business’. [EWN]
- Shrug: The City of Johannesburg’s property portfolio company, Johannesburg Property Company, is disregarding findings from the Special Investigative Unit that two of its executives may have been involved in financial misconduct – setting aside their suspensions and welcoming them back to work. The executives were suspended in September 2020 in relation to deep cleaning and sanitising contracts awarded during the coronavirus pandemic. The SIU found that there was evidence the execs were linked to financial misconduct in the contracts. However, instead of disciplining the executives, the company’s new board wants to lift their suspensions, disregarding the findings. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand touched a 16-month high against the dollar on Tuesday afternoon, helped by manufacturing figures that were far stronger than expected. The rand moved below 14 to the dollar for the first time since early January 2020 on Monday and posted further gains on Tuesday. Factors driving it higher include strong prices for metals the country exports, expectations that U.S. interest rates will not rise any time soon and signs that reform-minded President Cyril Ramaphosa is asserting his authority in the governing party. On Wednesday the rand was trading at R14.03/$, R17.02/€ and R19.82/£. [Reuters]