Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 174 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.74 million. In South Africa, there have been 5,074 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,696,564. Deaths have reached 56,974 (+45), while recoveries have climbed to 1,578,033, leaving the country with a balance of 61,557 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 1,343,433 (+6,886).
- Held back: Energy expert Chris Yelland says that South Africa has the capacity to move away from load shedding and meet its energy needs – but things are being held back by companies, particularly BEE companies, with vested interests in coal power. The expert noted that South Africa’s power mix is based on dated ideas of generation – like coal and nuclear – which have now become the most expensive ways to generate power. Renewables and more reliable power generation, meanwhile, have been pushed to the side as these vested interests work to ensure that coal remains dominant. This even extends to things like delivering coal, which is done by trucks when conveyor belts are a better option. [MyBroadband]
- Public protector: Busisiwe Mkhwebane has launched her latest court bid to have the impeachment process against her stopped and invalidated, this time claiming that the rules established by Parliament to do so are unconstitutional. She’s also arguing that because the process was established recently, they should not be allowed to be implemented retroactively – in other words, she doesn’t want to be held accountable for the 12 charges against her for misconduct, abuse of power and maladministration, to stand or be used against her in the process. Parliament says Mkhwebane’s arguments are absurd, as it would mean that nothing would ever be able to get her removed from the position, no matter how grave the accusations. [TimesLive]
- Online court: Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says that South Africa needs to transfer some judicial processes to a digital format, to alleviate some pressure on the country’s courts. The minister said that regional courts had a case backlog of 53% district courts were at 48% as of March 2020 – something which got worse because of Covid-19. Lamola argued that digital services and online hearings have been working really well during lockdown, and South Africa should make room for ‘online courts’ that could host full trials. The backlogs are slowly being dealt with, but archaic procedures need to be addressed, he said. [EWN]
- Admission: EFF deputy Floyd Shivambu’s brother, Brian, has quietly signed contract admitting to having received R4.55 million in VBS loot for no reason, and has promised to pay back the money. The contract, seen and published by the Daily Maverick, outlines an admission by Shivambu that there was no underlying basis for his company receiving the money, and that it will be paid back in monthly instalments of R300,000. The money is part of the R2.8 billion that was looted from depositors in VBS Bank. Shivambu had denied for years that he was part of the looting or had benefitted from it. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand inched weaker on Friday, remaining on the back foot against a recovering dollar after upbeat US weekly jobs data brought back bets of high lending rates by the Federal Reserve. The rand rallied more than 1% this week. The rand has gained close to 9% against the dollar this year so far, making it the best performing currency in 2021 against the dollar. Combined with bets that the Fed will keep lending rates lower for longer despite signs of the US economy recovering faster than expected, the rand and other risk currencies have benefited form a strong upswing in commodity prices. On Monday the rand is at R13.42/$, R16.32/€ and R18.98/£. [Reuters]