Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 13,263 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,484,009. Deaths have reached 73,415 (+423), while recoveries have climbed to 2,258,603, leaving the country with a balance of 151,991 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 8,182,380 (+200,558).
- Strike: A nationwide strike in the public sector has been averted, but more isolated cases of industrial action are still on the cards, with the National Union of Metalworkers of SA declaring a dispute over salary increases in the steel and engineering industry. The sector contributes approximately 10% to overall economic activity. Numsa, which claims to have more than 339,000 members, has rebuked the government’s wage offer of 1.5% that was recently accepted – as an interim measure – by the public sector unions. The metalworker union is demanding at least 8%, and is threatening the ‘mother of all strikes’ to get it. [Daily Maverick]
- Reshuffle: ANC insiders have confirmed that a cabinet reshuffle is on the way, with ‘quite a few’ ministers being moved around. The president has not divulged his plans, saying he will still be consulting, but the move is coming. One ministerial position is vacant, while two deputy positions need to be filled. The president was asked to take action against the security cluster in particular (ministries of defence, state security and police), while it is understood that health minister Zweli Mkhize was also asked to resign, amid the Digital Vibes allegations against him. The president is reportedly focusing his reshuffle around accountability for inaction. [News24 – paywall]
- Grants: South Africa’s R350 social relief grants will start rolling out by month-end, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has announced, with applications opening this Friday. Zulu said that it is not an automatic process and urged qualifying individuals to apply. She promised that more pay-points will be available for beneficiaries and that the systems have been updated. In previous cases, over 10 million applications were received, and even more are expected this time. Zulu said that her department is also in the process of forming a policy to introduce a permanent basic income grant. [ENCA]
- The cost of milk: Eskom has managed to almost halve its bill for consumables through various cost-cutting measures, the Department of Public Enterprises said. In the 2019/20 financial year, the power utility spent R29 million on items like milk, toilet paper and bottled water – in the latest financial year to February 2021, it managed to reduce this to R15.6 million. The costliest consumable on the list is milk – in 2019/20 the group spent R16.9 million on milk alone. In 2020/21 this was cut to R7 million. A total of 1,646 transactions were identified between 1 April 2020 to 28 February 2021, representing 0.01% of spending. [EWN]
- Markets: Emerging market currencies continue to reap the benefits of a weaker dollar, with the rand staging a massive rally against the US currency during trade this week. Short-term volatility in emerging markets currencies will linger as the jury is still out on the timing of US stimulus tapering and as investors support currencies with greater potential for strength, a Reuters poll found. The South African rand was expected to weaken about 1% to 14.40/$ in six months, while South Africa’s interest rate hiking cycle is expected to kick off in early 2022. On Thursday the rand was trading at R14.36/$, R16.99/€ and R19.94/£. [Reuters]