Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 174.4 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.75 million. In South Africa, there have been 3,285 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,699,849. Deaths have reached 57,063 (+89), while recoveries have climbed to 1 581 540, leaving the country with a balance of 61 246 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 1,350,245 (+6,812).
- Crisis: The High Court has forced national government to intervene in a service delivery crisis in Mpumalanga. The ANC-led Lekwa municipality has been in disarray for years, with raw sewage running through people’s yards. Service delivery in Lekwa municipality got so bad that Astral Foods had to take the matter to court, because it could not get access to clean water to conduct its business. Up to 40% of its production was under threat due to government’s failures. Deputy finance minister David Masondo said that the ruling is the first of its kind, but sets a precedent, and will likely happen again in the future. He said there are 40 other municipalities at the same level of crisis. [Moneyweb]
- GDP: Stats SA will publish the first quarter GDP data for South Africa, with economists and analysts expecting a surprise on the upside. The Reserve Bank expects GDP growth of around 2.7% in the first quarter, which is up significantly from earlier projections of just 0.2%. The main driver of the upward revision is the global demand for commodities, which has boosted the mining and resources sector for the last few months. South Africa’s economy contracted by 7% in 2020, due to the economic shutdown as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The economy is expected to slowly recover over the next few years.
- Mkhize: Health minister Zweli Mkhize says that he does not believe that the Digital Vibes saga in which he is currently embroiled is a political play against him. This after media reports this past weekend claimed that the minister blamed president Cyril Ramaphosa for the mess, allegedly to take out political opponents in the upcoming ANC national elective conference in 2022. Mkhize has denied the claims made in the article. The minister is under intense scrutiny over a R150 million communication contract doled out by the health department, which landed in the hands of close associates of Mkhize’s, with further investigative reports pointing to how the minister benefited. The matter is being investigated by the SIU. [EWN]
- Grants: South Africa’s social grants are beset by fraudsters, who are extracting millions of rands from taxpayers through undue payments. Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu revealed that in 2020 millions of rands in social grants were paid to prisoners, people living outside South Africa, and Post Office workers. The last segment is particularly egregious, since the Post Office took over the payment of the grants in 2018. Post Office workers extracted R1.5 million a month through fraud, while those living outside South Africa were taking R7 million. 105 prisoners kept receiving grants, paid just under R200,000 a month. [TimesLive].
- Markets: The rand held strong on Monday, boosted by positive global sentiment around recovery, pushing investors into riskier assets. The rand has also been supported by muted jobs numbers in the US. There has been no new data to add to the analysis of the rand locally, with much of the strength coming through global factors. Commodities have enjoyed strong demand for a prolonged period, and many economists expect the currency to return to a more fair value between R14.50 and R15.00 in time. On Tuesday, the rand was trading at R13.53/$, R16.48/€ and R19.16/£.