Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 8,881 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 1,712,939. Deaths have reached 57,310 (+127), while recoveries have climbed to 1,589,501, leaving the country with a balance of 66,128 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 1,525,271 (+91,541).
Load shedding: Eskom announced load shedding will move to stage 3 from 08h00 to 22h00 on Thursday, before returning to stage 2 overnight.
- Power problems: Eskom is in a terrible catch-22 situation, where it desperately needs to do planned maintenance on its ailing power stations to prevent breakdowns, but is being forced to cut this planned maintenance because of the breakdowns. The power utility forecast over 3,000MW being pulled this week for planned maintenance, but had to more than halve this to 1,300MW to lessen the blow from failures elsewhere. If Eskom stuck to its maintenance plans. the additional capacity taken offline would be the difference between stage 4 and stage 6 load shedding (almost 2,000MW). Eskom plans over 4,000MW of maintenance next week, which analysts say is now unlikely. [Moneyweb]
- Vaccines: South Africa is still waiting for the US Food and Drug Authority to approve the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, so that it can release 1 million doses for use in regions like the Eastern Cape. The vaccine has been on hold for several weeks after the FDA flagged contaminant issues at J&J production plant in the USA. Local authorities are unable to greenlight the vaccine for use until the FDA gives its approval. However, while the US body delays the decision, millions of doses are at risk of expiring during the wait. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said it was putting pressure in the FDA to make a decision. [ENCA, EWN]
- Green Scorpions: The Karpowership SA consortium is weeks away from its deadline to wrap up a 20-year electricity supply deal with Eskom. But a Green Scorpions investigation into “misleading” information may prevent it from getting the environmental authorisation it needs. The Green Scorpions are investigating whether Karpowership SA or its environmental consultants provided misleading information to secure an emergency exemption from stringent provisions of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema). The investigation could result in criminal charges, but could also torpedo Karpowership’s environmental authorisations, which it needs for its mammoth R225-billion deal with Eskom to go ahead. [amaBhungane]
- Guptas: The United Arab Emirates has ratified an extradition treaty with South Africa, which could eventually see the Gupta brothers compelled to return to South Africa to face charges related to state capture. The NPA has issued several warrants of arrest for the Guptas, their families and business associates, with only marginal success in actually having them present in court. The NPA has reached out to Interpol for assistance in executing the warrants. While the extradition treaty has been signed with the UAE on board, the ceremonial processes and handovers are yet to play out, so a speedy ‘homecoming’ for the Guptas is not expected. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The rand lost ground against the dollar on Wednesday, as eyes fell on US inflation data and investors looked to various central banks for indications of policy direction and markets emerge from various lockdowns. The rand has enjoyed prolonged strength on the back of global sentiment and a boost to commodities, but continues to face its own internal pressures, locally. US markets were given a bump as hopes for demand grew after the country lifted or eased travel warnings for various territories. On Thursday, the rand is trading at R13.76/$, R16.73/€ and R19.40/£.