Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 14,728 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,638,981. Deaths have reached 78,377 (+384), while recoveries have climbed to 2,402,020, leaving the country with a balance of 158,584 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 9,962,111 (+208,973).
- KZN rising: KwaZulu Natal is experiencing a spike in Covid-19 cases, which experts say comes from super spreader events in the province – more specifically, the unrest and violent riots that took place in July. It is also anticipated that the current numbers will get worse in the province. The NICD reported 14,728 new Covid-19 cases in South Africa in the last 24 hours. The Western Cape recorded the highest cases – 3,931 – followed by KwaZulu Natal with 3,750 new infections. [ENCA]
- Good idea, bad idea: Investment experts say the government’s proposed plan to have South Africans put 12% of their income into a state-controlled pension fund isn’t a terrible idea – at least on paper. It would go a long way in setting up a proper social security system while also removing its well-established trend of being a zero-savings nation. However, there is a large caveat: it requires citizens’ trust in the government to handle the funds properly. Unfortunately, the state has not yet proven it can run a disciplined fiscus, and is mired in corruption and wasteful spending. 
- Chemicals: A full list of the dangerous and harmful chemicals held in the KZN warehouse that went up in flames during the July riots has been released. Several chemicals are banned in the EU and other countries, ranging from China to Sri Lanka. The long list includes deadly pesticides, herbicides and intermediate products. It also includes suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, chemicals that “may damage the unborn child”, and tons of “highly caustic” substances that burn skin on contact. The warehouse was set alight on 12 July, and the chemically contaminated run-off from fighting the fire leaked into surrounding rivers and lagoons. [amaBhungane]
- Madam Speaker: National Assembly will elect a new speaker today, with former defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula widely expected to be confirmed for the position by the majority ANC. However, her nomination for the role has been widely criticised by opposition parties. Notably, Mapisa-Nqakula is currently under investigation by parliament for allegedly receiving bribes and blowing millions of rands on luxury living. If she is elected as speaker, this will introduce a conflict of interest, as she will be responsible for determining how these investigations proceed. Mapisa-Nqakula has denied the allegations. [News24 – paywall]
- Markets: The rand continued to test a sustained break above the R14.90/$ mark on Wednesday, finally breaking past R15.00 to the dollar as investors remain on edge. The delayed opening of the JSE marred confidence in local markets. The wider market focus remains on the Afghan tension, the spread of the Delta variant, and growth in the US. The rand remains under pressure on Thursday, trading at R15.04/$, R17.56/€ and R20.63/£.