Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 161.8 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.36 million. In South Africa, there have been 3,221 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,605,252. Deaths have reached 55,012 (+44), while recoveries have climbed to 1,520,878, leaving the country with a balance of 29,326 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 455,169 (+24,439).
- Rigged: Allegations are being made left, right and centre around the use of Turkish-made power ships, and the R255 billion contract scored by the one company who owns them. A deeper dive into the claims being made against the ships uncovers allegations of tampering and undue influence at every stage of the tender bidding process, with critics saying that the company was ‘led’ to the victory podium, with several concessions and shortcuts being allowed. These include things like allowing temporary leases of second-hand ships to qualify as ‘greenfield projects’, and meeting the 40% local content requirement during construction, despite the ships being built exclusively in Turkey. [amaBhungane]
- Blown budget: The health department’s budget plan is being widely criticised as being ‘unattainable’, given that most government departments are being hit with budget cuts. Health minister Zweli Mkhize tabled the R62.5 billion budget vote this week, with R9 billion allocated to fighting the Covid-19. Mkhize’s department was criticised by opposition parties for fluffing the vaccine rollout, and blaming it on external influences when government incompetence was equally to blame. Mkhize conceded that the rollout had not gone to plan, but did not take full accountability for it. The department expressed concern around the third wave of infections looming, and said alcohol and tobacco laws needed to be tightened. [TimesLive]
- Face-off: Despite a hopeful statement from the South African Local Government Association that unions and authorities were making headway over the public servant wage increases, thing appear to be quite the opposite. Unions have slammed Salga for even giving that impression, saying that the parties are still far apart over the wage issue. Government is trying to cut spending and has put public wages in the spotlight. Unions, however, feel like workers are now taking the fall for years of government corruption and incompetence that have drained the public coffers. The offer for increases is a sub-inflation 1.2% (effectively a freeze), while unions seek CPI+4% – failing which, they strike. [News24]
- Ace-off: Suspended ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has until the end of business today to apologise for attacking and attempting to suspend president Cyril Ramaphosa. Magashule made the attempt after Ramaphosa got the support of the NEC and NWC to suspend Magashule, after he refused to step aside from his role voluntarily over his corruption charges. The ANC NEC again backed Ramaphosa, when it said that Magashule should apologise, or face further disciplinary action from the party. Magashule has remained defiant, and has served the ANC with court papers challenging the step-aside rule. [ENCA]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand firmed on Thursday, recovering alongside other emerging market currencies following the surprise inflation increase in the United States, as investors saw smaller chances of higher lending rates by the Federal Reserve. Data on Wednesday showed US consumer prices increased the most in nearly 12 years in April, intensifying concerns over rising inflation and raising expectations that the central bank would tighten its monetary policy. Those fears cooled somewhat on Thursday. On Friday the rand was trading at R14.12/$, R17.07/€ and R19.84/£. [Reuters]