Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 174.7 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 3.76 million. In South Africa, there have been 4,209 new cases, taking the total reported to 1,704,058. Deaths have reached 57,183 (+120), while recoveries have climbed to 1,587,015, leaving the country with a balance of 59,860 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 1,433,730 (+83,485).
Load shedding: Eskom announced that load shedding will continue at stage 2 until the end of the week. Starting 10h00 on Wednesday, and continuing until Sunday at 22h00.
- Return to sender: Health minister Zweli Mkhize has been placed on special leave, and says he is accepting full responsibility for the ‘outrage’ surrounding his department’s ties to communication company, Digital Vibes, which scored a R150 million contract that has been found to be irregular. Investigations by the Daily Maverick uncovered the links between Digital Vibes and Mkhize, and also tracked funds and benefits that moved from the company to the minister’s family. Mkhize said that all the funds would be returned, adding that the relationship between his adult children and the company was inappropriate, but insisted there was no malice or intentional overstepping involved. [EWN]
- NCCC: The National Coronavirus Command Council says it is concerned about the rising number of Covid cases in the country, noting that four provinces – the Northern Cape, North-West, Free State and Gauteng – are into a third wave of infections, with the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape being closely monitored as cases there also increase at an alarming rate. The majority of cases are coming from Gauteng. While no recommendations are being made for harder lockdown restrictions yet, the council stressed that South Africans should go beyond the current regulations and avoid crowded places and continue wearing masks, social distancing and sanitising. [TimesLive]
- PP: Speaker of Parliament Thandi Modise has hit back at Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s arguments in court, as to why she cannot be removed from her position. Mkhwebane has argued that the rules to oust her were set up hastily, without a constitutional basis, and have incorrectly been applied retroactively in a bid to get her out of office. However, in responding submissions, Modise says that the process is rooted in section 194 of the Constitution, which lays out grounds for the removal of a Public Protector. She said that the panel set up to determine the path forward with the removal demonstrated Parliament’s caution. [Daily Maverick]
- No house: The ANC national working committee has reportedly confirmed the disbandment of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association and thrown its support behind a process of amalgamating it with the rival MK National Council. The two associations are split along factional lines within the ANC, with the MKVA most notoriously used as a base for supporters of Jacob Zuma and Ace Magashule, spearheaded by the controversial Carl Niehaus. The ANC resolved in 2018 that the two bodies be collapsed into one, but they have had an antagonistic relationship. The delay in resolving the issue has led to the disbandment. [Mail & Guardian]
- Markets: The rand was unmoved by better than expected GDP numbers on Tuesday, though it remains in a relatively strong position, holding well below R14 to the dollar. The currency slipped ahead of the GDP numbers, walking back from two-year highs against the dollar. It has been riding the wave of demand for commodities and a softer dollar, joining other emerging markets in benefiting from a risk-on environment. The rand has been the best performing EM currency this year so far, and will likely alleviate some other pressures – particularly rising global oil prices, which threaten to hike the price of fuel. On Wednesday the rand is at R13.58/$, R16.54/€ and R19.22/£.