Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 164.9 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.42 million. In South Africa, there have been 2,355 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,617,840. Deaths have reached 55,340 (+80), while recoveries have climbed to 1,527,968, leaving the country with a balance of 34,532 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 519,139 (+40,406).
- Phase 2: South Africa’s phase 2 vaccination programme is off to a slow start, with only 39,371 people over 60 inoculated with the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The remainder of healthcare workers – some 700,000 – who weren’t vaccinated under phase 1 are also slowly getting their shot. Government says it is currently focusing on old-age homes before moving on to individuals who have registered. It said that the capacity to vaccinate more people would be bolstered as more sites would come online next week. Researchers have shown that government needs to vaccinate over 100,000 people a day to meet its targets. [EWN]
- Capitulation: Government’s offer to public service workers to adjust salaries by 1.5% and grant them a R978 recurring bonus for 12 months has left lawmakers scratching their heads – especially after the deadlock with unions, where government insisted there was no money to pay them more. Opposition parties have criticised the offer as capitulating to unions demands, and buckling to threats. The DA said the offer would amount to R15.6 billion in extra funding that government would have to scratch up from somewhere in the already overstretched budget. [TimesLive]
- Scavengers: Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe says that South Africa needs to beware ‘scavengers’ in the energy sectors, who are looking to make quick money. While the minister did not point to any person or company in particular, the comment came while discussing the country’s plans to use liquefied natural gas as a power source to supplement its energy needs. This is in the context of the controversial deal with Turkish power ships, which use the gas as a fuel source. Tenders with these ships have come under scrutiny, with Mantashe indirectly implicated in the matter. [Moneyweb]
- On the money: Questions have been raised around a City of Ekurhuleni programme to benefit the poor which was generously expanded – but the beneficiaries were often commercial companies. Projects investigated by amaBhungane showed little community involvement or benefit. from the programme, and critics claim that some politically connected businesses were favoured to win grants. Further investigations revealed that municipal oversight around the programme appears poor, and proof is lacking that some events took place. [amaBhungane]
- Markets: The rand traded stronger for a third day on Tuesday, though bound to a narrow range around R14 to the dollar. The R14 mark is an important psychological level for the currency. It managed to break under that level only briefly on 10 May, and again yesterday. Markets are easing as Euro economies slowly open up, providing an optimistic environment despite Covid-19 fears. On Wednesday the rand was trading at R14.00/$, R17.14/€ and R19.87/£.