Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 10,685 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,624,254. Deaths have reached 77,993 (+553), while recoveries have climbed to 2,393,133, leaving the country with a balance of 153,128 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 9,753,138 (+195,596).
- Demand drop: The government is worried about waning demand for vaccines in South Africa, and is embarking on a new education campaign to educate South Africans about vaccines and answer their safety concerns. Interest around the vaccines has been declining after the initial registration boost from the population’s 35- to 49-year-old group. From almost reaching the 300,000 per day mark, total inoculations are now averaging around 150,000 a day. The health department also hopes to regain vaccination momentum by opening up for 18-34 earlier than planned. [EWN]
- Retirement funds: National Treasury says it is working through the nuts and bolts of the planned policy changes to allow the early withdrawal of retirement savings. It said the aim is to ensure the preservation of funds – so that most of the money saved for retirement is actually kept for retirement. South African households are already not saving enough, and giving too much freedom with the policy could be disastrous. Despite this, it acknowledged there are times when emergency funds are needed – but withdrawals have to be limited. Public services unions are unhappy about potentially being excluded from the policy. [News24 – paywall]
- School holidays: Education unions and school governing bodies have voiced their opposition to the government’s plan to scrap the October holidays for schools in South Africa. The education department wants to do away with the five-day holiday to catch up on lost teaching time. Schools are pushing back against the plan because they say pupils will be worse off for it, as they need time to recuperate and study for exams. Unions are opposed because they say the government did not consult them and that the change will also impact teachers. [ENCA]
- Go slow: The ANC risks missing an IEC deadline to register candidates for this year’s municipal elections as staff embark on a go-slow because of delayed salary payments and other benefits. The ANC has until 23 August to get its admin in order, but employees refuse to work overtime or weekends until they are paid. The ANC has appealed to its staff to suspend the go-slow, describing the situation as critical. The go-slow has been in effect for over a month already, with the party acknowledging that it has run into financial issues. [TimesLive]
- Markets: Poor economic data from China, ongoing concerns over the spread of the delta variant and tension in Afghanistan contributed to risk-off trade in the overnight session – affecting the rand. The local unit was beaten down by a stronger dollar, driven by disappointing Chinese factory output and retail sales data. China is one of South Africa’s largest trading partners, and South African assets are correlated to swings in sentiment on international markets. South Africa’s government bonds are also weakening, as is reflected in a rise in yields, which points to an outflow of dollars, further weakening the rand. On Wednesday, the rand was at R14.85/$, R17.39/€ and R20.41/£.