Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 5,644 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,770,575. Deaths have reached 81,830 (+235), while recoveries have climbed to 2,533,956, leaving the country with a balance of 154,789 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 12,289,478 (+267,870).
- New variant: The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says that while the new C.1.2. Covid variant detected in South Africa is a variant of interest, it is not yet a variant of concern, such as the alpha, beta and delta variants that have spread across the world. The new variant was discovered in May, during the third wave in South Africa. The NICD said that the C.1.2. was at a low frequency – currently between 2% and 3% of infections – but this was gradually increasing month by month and that it was for this reason that they were watching the situation closely. [EWN]
- Social security: The Department of Social Development’s green paper on social security and universal income has been met with a furious backlash from economists, unions, taxpayers and other stakeholders, with over 17,000 comments submitted to the participative democracy platform Dear South Africa – almost all against it. The plans are seen as yet another tax on the middle class. Economists say it is unaffordable; union Solidarity says it’s illegal – and most commentators agree it is unlikely to see the light of day. [Moneyweb]
- Cannabis: Parliament’s Justice Committee has started three days of hearings into South Africa’s new cannabis bill, which was drafted after private use of the plant was decriminalised in 2018. The new draft bill outlines possession rules for users and people who wish to cultivate it – however, points of contention remain. One of the key hangups is that the buying and selling of cannabis seeds, oils and the plant itself remain illegal, arguably making the private use freedoms moot. [ENCA]
- Arrests: So far, 18 people have been arrested in connection with South Africa’s July riots in KwaZulu Natal and parts of Gauteng. The arrest of a purported ‘social media influencer’ at the weekend was the latest to be made, following the reported arrests of an Ukhozi FM radio DJ, a Fees Must Fall activist, and other known political figures. Most of the arrests are unreported, and the identities of the suspects are unknown. Those arrested are clear supporters of Jacob Zuma and those aligned to him. They have been charged with inciting violence. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The South African rand gained on Monday, boosted with other risk-sensitive currencies by investor confidence that the US Federal Reserve was in no rush to step away from its massive pandemic-era stimulus. Fed Chair Jerome Powell told the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, central banking symposium on Friday that tapering of stimulus measures could begin this year but added the Fed would remain cautious. Gold, along with risk-based assets, traded stronger. The rand starts the day on Tuesday at R14.62/$, R17.28/€ and R20.16/£.