Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 171.5 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.56 million. In South Africa, there have been 2,792 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,665,617. Deaths have reached 56,506 (+67) while recoveries have climbed to 1,559,337, leaving the country with a balance of 49,774 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 970,448 (+2,129).
- Crypto clamp down: SARS is bringing the pressure to those who are trading in cryptocurrencies to potentially avoid taxes, with three major exchanges in South Africa confirming that they have been approached by the revenue service as part of a ‘tax assessment process’. The taxman is looking at individuals involved in the mining, investment and trading of cryptocurrencies. Taxpayers are required to disclose their crypto assets to SARS. The exchanges said they have complied with SARS’ request, though told customers they worked to narrow the scope of the request as far as possible. [Moneyweb]
- Power out: Eskom has warned that load shedding may be a regular feature for the rest of the week and possibly weeks to come, as winter months settle in South Africa, bringing extreme cold and rainy weather to other parts of the country – placing the national grid under considerable stain. The power utility has been struggling to barely keep the lights on without the additional demand, and so it has asked customers to use electricity sparingly where they can. Energy experts say the only solution to the problem is for independent power producers to step in, but this requires government to cut the red tape blocking them. [EWN]
- Not enough: Government advisors say they were disappointed with president Ramaphosa’s decision to put South Africa in adjusted lockdown level 2 – especially after they recommended much harsher restrictions, or even a move to lockdown level 3. Speaking to News24, members of the advisory council said the current lockdown rules do not go far enough to prevent the spread of infection, flagging gathering sizes as still being too large, and requesting that the army be brought in once again to assist with the policing of preventative measures. Some members also raised concerns around the re-opening of schools as being a potential problem. [News24 – paywall]
- Denial: Health minister Zweli Mkhize is running out of room to side-step responsibility for a R150 million digital communications contract that was awarded by his department to close associates of his. The contract – which was found to be awarded irregularly and was charging millions of rands to do simple communication work – is currently under investigation. Mkhize has denied any wrongdoing, and says he did not benefit from it; however, early investigations have already found that money from Digital Vibes went to Mkhize’s son, and bankrolled maintenance work on the minister’s property. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The rand continued to be on the front foot on Monday, following a week of gains against the US dollar. On Thursday, the rand traded near R13.70 to the dollar, more than 20 cents stronger than it did the previous week. At the close on Friday, the rand traded at R13.76 to the dollar. The continued strength places the rand at its strongest point in two years. It continues to be buoyed by high commodity prices and a muted dollar. Positive sentiment about economic recovery, locally, has also added to the fanfare. On Tuesday the rand is trading at R13.72/$, R16.77/€ and R19.51/£.