Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 171.9 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.57 million. In South Africa, there have been 3,614 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,669,231. Deaths have reached 56,601 (+95), while recoveries have climbed to 1,563,719, leaving the country with a balance of 48,911 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 1,045,104 (+76,785).
Load shedding: Stage 2 load shedding will be implemented from 10h00 on Wednesday and continue until 22h00 on Friday.
- No more perks: Parliament wants to cut spending on benefits for former ministers and members of provincial legislatures, due to budget cuts. Parliament currently foots the bill for benefits such as medical aid for members, former members and other officials – even if they have never stepped foot in the house. National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise said that this needs to be reviewed, because parliament’s budget can no longer sustain these payments. Previous reports found that taxpayers were also paying the bills for former ministers and their spouses’ flights – where they would only travel in business class. [TimesLive]
- Digital Vibes: Further investigations into the Department of Health’s irregular Digital Vibes contract have revealed that minister Zweli Mkhize’s son scored a Land Cruiser bakkie from the company. Previous investigations found that the minister’s son also had money paid to his company, while the maintenance work on the minister’s house was also paid for by the group. Mkhize denies any wrongdoing, and his son says that nothing he has received has to do with government tenders. Digital Vibes, connected to two close associates of Mkhize, scored a R150 million communication contract from the health department. The company charged millions to set up press briefings and social media campaigns. [Daily Maverick]
- Engineers: Trade union Solidarity has accused water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu of lying to the nation when she said that 20 Cuban engineers appointed by government would handled with transparency. The union claims it has evidence that the engineers do not meet local requirements for licencing and registration, and that they will be staying in the country on the taxpayer’s dime – being paid R300,000 more than South African engineers, and costing taxpayers around R75 million in total, benefits included. The union is taking the matter further, saying that it’s nonsensical that government hires external engineers when there are local engineers sitting without work. [EWN]
- SABC: The SABC has reported its first monthly profit in five years – clocking R43 million in profit. The last time the broadcaster made a monthly profit was in 2016. The earnings were due to a change in how the group sells advertising, it said. Revenues were slightly boosted following a reduction of staff in March. The SABC has been struggling to bring any money in, due to declining advertising and low collections and payment of TV licences. The group is aiming to boost collections through regulations, which would see other services like DStv collect fees on their behalf, with other proposals for more devices to be included under the TV licence conditions. [News24 – paywall]
- Markets: The South African rand fell on Tuesday after data showed that the country’s unemployment rate hit a new record high in the first quarter, signalling continued weakness in an economy whose woes were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sentiment was also affected by the resumption of rotational power cuts by power utility Eskom. South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to a new record high of 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021, with job losses recorded mostly in construction, followed by trade, private households, transport and agriculture sectors. On Wednesday the rand is trading at R13.77/$, R16.82/€ and R19.49/£. [Reuters]