Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 161.1 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.35 million. In South Africa, there have been 2,759 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,602,031. Deaths have reached 54,968 (+72), while recoveries have climbed to 1,519,734, leaving the country with a balance of 27,329 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 430,730 (+16,358).
- Lockdown warning: Businesses have warned that South Africa’s economy cannot afford stricter lockdown measures, after reports of health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirming that the country is “For all intents and purposes…in a third-wave”. The minister this week remarked that several areas in the country were seeing rising numbers of infection, while medical experts have called for a tighter lockdown to slow down the spread. However, economists say that while a third wave is concerning, businesses and the economy are not in any position to take on more restrictions, and that government doesn’t have the money to help them through it. 
- Bounce back: New data from the BankservAfrica Economic Transaction Index (BETI) shows that the South African economy is bouncing back from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown – but the recovery is patchy and uneven. The group noted that even though the overall index was up significantly (+26%), this is after a massive drop of 15% during lockdown – so it’s not so much major growth for the economy, but rather a return to pre-Covid-19 levels. The BETI measures monthly transactions paid into the South African National Payments System, and in April there were 109 million transactions valued at R1.03 trillion. [Moneyweb]
- Scandal: South Africa’s insurance market has been rocked by a scandal perpetrated by Insure Group Managers, where the company’s directors – intermediaries between insurance companies and customers – effectively took R1.7 billion in premiums meant to go to the insurers, and instead invested it elsewhere on the sly in a bid to make ‘secret profit’. A Financial Sector Conduct Authority deemed the conduct unlawful, with the Financial Intermediaries Association called it illegal. The managers invested money into high-risk and ultimately loss-making assets, and also used it to fund their own operations. [Daily Maverick]
- Zuma: Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial may again be delayed if the former president isn’t able to find a new legal team to represent him, experts warn. Zuma and French arms company Thales face charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering in a case that has dragged on for well over a decade. Zuma has persistently frustrated the process, despite claiming to want to have his day in court. Legal experts warn that the state could end up frustrated once again because of Zuma’s legal teams not sticking. Witnesses have been secured and briefed, and state prosecutors have been ready for years. [EWN]
- Markets: The South African rand weakened on Wednesday as a jump in consumer prices in the United States raised fears that the central bank would tighten its monetary policy, cutting off a key source of supply to riskier assets. The rand, which hit a 16-month high on Tuesday, has had a strong run since March prompted by lower rates in the developed world, a surge in global commodity prices and signs the local economy is on track for a better-than-expected recovery. On Thursday the rand was trading at R14.12/$, R17.04/€ and R19.85/£. [Reuters]