Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 2,967 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,889,298. Deaths have reached 86,500 (+124), while recoveries have climbed to 2,750,213, leaving the country with a balance of 52,585 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 16,560,718 (+202,642).
- Boosters: The US has approved the Pfizer vaccine as booster shots for vaccinated individuals. In South Africa, medical experts are investigating potential booster processes, which could see those who have already been fully vaccinated getting a different type of vaccine. The South African Medical Research Council says it’s trying to source Johnson & Johnson doses for trial purposes. In the US, the Pfizer booster has only been approved for people over 65 or who suffer from comorbidities. [ENCA, EWN]
- Mandatory: The University of Cape Town’s senate has voted in favour of a mandatory vaccine policy – but the final decision still rests with the university’s council. If implemented, the university will make it compulsory for all staff and students to be vaccinated before being allowed back on campus. For students, the policy goes further and would make vaccination a condition for registration. The policy proposes a start date of 1 January 2022, but the university stressed that no final decision has been made. [News24]
- Promises: Energy regulator Nersa says that it will publish the reasons for approving the power ship licences in due course. It has assured that granting the licences is well within its mandate and that the necessary processes were followed. The regulator approved the licences despite the public backlash and pending litigation over the tender process of the emergency energy contracts. They were also granted despite no approval from environmental authorities. The contracts have been mired by allegations of tender fixing and concerns over how the ships being parked in prominent bays for as many as two decades will disrupt the ecology of the areas. 
- Expensive taste: The latest investigation into the Digital Vibes saga revealed that an associate of former health minister Zweli Mkhize – who scored multi-million rand contracts from the health department – splurged on luxury goods, appliances and holidays, all funded by the Covid contracts. The report found that at least R1 million of the money intended for vital Covid-19 communications was blown on these shopping sprees when the country was headed for the second wave of the virus. Only a small percentage of the millions of rands received by Digital Vibes was actually used for the intended communications. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand strengthened on Wednesday as an easing of market jitters over Chinese property developer Evergrande lifted risk-sensitive currencies worldwide, while local investors look to the repo rate decision later in the day on Thursday. In a poll published last week, all the economists surveyed by Reuters predicted the SARB would leave its repo rate at a record low of 3.5% as inflation remains well within its target band of 3% to 6%. A deputy governor said last month he thought the bank could normalise rates fairly slowly. On Thursday, R14.78/$, R17.29/€ and R20.15/£.