Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 22,910 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,135,246. Deaths have reached 63,499 (+460), while recoveries have climbed to 1,862,900, leaving the country with a balance of 208,847 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 4,017,442 (+197,692).
- Vaccines: The health department has announced it will open up South Africa’s Covid vaccine rollout to people between 35 and 49 years old, with registrations starting on 15 July. The rollout is expected to start on 1 August. Vaccination efforts will also be boosted with the department securing funding to start vaccinating over weekends. Research shows that the lack of weekend jabs has been a glaring hole in South Africa’s vaccination strategy, resulting in as many as 1.3 million missed vaccination opportunities. The main reason for this has been a lack of funding to pay healthcare workers to put in the extra hours. [BusinessTech]
- Wages: Public sector wage negotiations are set to continue today, with the government tabling its offer of a 1.5% increase and a one-off bonus of R1,200 to R1,700, depending on salary level. The unions are expected to present the outcomes of ballots from their members, who have been considering the offer this week. Unions have been demanding above-inflation increases of CPI+4%, which would translate to wages being hiked around 9% this year. The government has stood firm in its position that it simply does not have the money to accommodate those increases. Treasury has been tasked with cutting the wage bill by R160 billion in the medium term. [News24]
- Laundering: The latest investigative report tracking the flow of money through companies and groups linked to the Guptas at the state capture commission has revealed billions of rands being laundered through affiliate businesses run off-shore. The report traced over R8.8 billion that was laundered offshore through 4,000 transactions to just 12 of these companies. These are just the transactions that are known, and many more of these ‘bridges’ could exist. Shockingly, these laundering networks were not established by the Guptas but had been used prior for similar purposes for other groups. [Daily Maverick]
- Nkandla drama: Following the arrest of Jacob Zuma, his supporters are next in line. Carl Niehaus, a staunch Zuma supporter, was arrested outside the Estcourt prison complex on Thursday for contravening South Africa’s lockdown restrictions. Niehaus was the main instigator and orchestrator of the mass gatherings in support of Zuma ahead of his arrest, and also threatened civil war in the event that the former president was imprisoned. He was suspended from the ANC this week for his utterances against the party, and the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, which he led, was formally disbanded. [TimesLive]
- Markets: The rand traded flat on Thursday, unmoved by local politics around the arrest of Jacob Zuma, which dominated headlines in local media. Markets are awaiting direction from the US Fed, seeking any indication of US interest rates being hikes. Any sign they will rise soon tends to hurt emerging market currencies like the rand. The rand has been trading in a range of R14.25 to R14.40 this week and light Asian trade overnight did not break this trend. On Friday the rand was trading at R14.33/$, R16.95/€ and R19.74/£.