Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 2,106 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,900,994. Deaths have reached 87,525 (+108), while recoveries have climbed to 2,766,892, leaving the country with a balance of 46,577 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 17,349,100 (+172,497).
- Disaster: President Cyril Ramaphosa says that if it were up to him, he would end the national state of disaster immediately. However, he said that decisions around the state of disaster are ‘guided by science’ and that science of the pandemic and the recommendations from the various advisory committees points to fears and concerns that there could be another wave of Covid-19 in the coming months. South Africa has been in a perpetual state of disaster for 18 months, with the government able to extend it for a month at a time, with no parliamentary oversight or permission required. [TimesLive]
- Mandatory: In the same briefing, Ramaphosa spoke about compulsory vaccines in the country, saying it was an ongoing discussion and debate in government. The president previously assured the nation that the government would not force vaccines on citizens; however, many private businesses and groups have decided to make the jabs mandatory. Ramaphosa said that while the government understands the need to push vaccines to restore full economic activity, mandatory vaccines need to be done with due consideration and engagement with workers and customers. [BusinessLive]
- Digital Vibes: High-ups at the Department of Health have been deeply implicated in the SIU’s investigation into the R150 million Digital Vibes scandal, with the published report shedding light on how the apparent tender fraud went down. The department’s chief financial officer raised flags over the contract amount, saying it could not secure enough money to pay the R2.5 million a month needed. However, he was just bluntly told to ‘find the money’ by his bosses. Shifting Digital Vibes to the Covid communications contract and paying exorbitant fees for unchecked work were all done without authorisation. [Paywall – News24]
- Nkandla: South Africa is still trying to recover money spent on upgrades to former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, with a special tribunal in the Pietermaritzburg High Court hearing evidence from witnesses involved with the project. The state is trying to recover R155 million from Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya. R246 million in state funds were used to upgrade the compound. Witnesses testify of heavily inflated prices – such as aircon units priced at R150,000 costing R4 million, and R8.8 million was spent tarring roads when this was initially priced at R98,000. [EWN]
- Markets: The South African rand dropped on Wednesday as the dollar advanced on increased expectations that the US Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy. The US currency, seen as a safe haven during times of market stress, has strengthened in recent days as investors have focused on fears of a global economic slowdown, a rise in energy prices and higher US Treasury yields. Some traders are concerned the Fed will start to withdraw policy support just as global growth slows. On Thursday, the rand was trading at R15.11/$, R17.54/€ and R20.32/£. [Reuters]