Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 942 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,913,880. Deaths have reached 88,466 (+37), while recoveries have climbed to 2,802,615, leaving the country with a balance of 22,799 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 19,668,177 (+206,975).
- Insurrection: Three months on, police minister Bheki Cele says that the South African police are ‘close’ to cracking the insurrection plot, which the state claims was behind the mid-July riots and looting in KwaZulu Natal and parts of Gauteng. Eighteen people have been arrested in connection with the alleged insurrection scheme, with Cele saying their cases are all at different stages. The government argues that these individuals used their platforms and behind-the-scenes scheming to incite the masses to protest the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. However, protests led to looting and violence that resulted in the deaths of over 300 people and billions of rands in economic damage. [TimesLive]
- Another one: Transport minister Fikile Mbalula promises a new deadline for the Gauteng e-toll matter to be resolved. He now says that the government is “determined” to see the issue laid to rest before the end of the year, with some form of an announcement expected during the mid-term budget in November. Mbalula has previously promised a resolution on the matter several times since 2019 but delivered nothing. Gauteng motorists continue to ignore the system, while road agency Sanral racks up debt and suffers losses due to the government’s dithering. The state’s official position on e-tolls flip-flops depending on who you ask about it. [ENCA]
- Swindled: Disgruntled waste collectors in Ekurhuleni, contracted on an ambitious R1.2 billion job creation and empowerment programme, told amaBhungane in July that promises were broken, that they were underpaid, and that companies supposed to mentor them had pocketed most of the money. While the city of Ekurhuleni denied the allegations, a forensic report commissioned by the city shows that waste collectors were indeed underpaid. At the same time, the ‘mentors’ that were supposed to build skills were overpaid by millions. The city was reportedly well aware of this fact for the last three years; however, it continues to deny that anything is amiss. [amaBhungane]
- Vaccine safety: An ongoing study is assessing the medical records of 6.2 million and 5.7 million people in the US who have received one or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna Covid vaccines, respectively. The researchers found that, after ten months, there were no significant associations between vaccination and the targeted 23 serious side effects in any of the cases. While some serious side effects did occur, they were extremely rare and were not prevalent enough to ‘signal’ health concerns or halt vaccination processes. The findings were published in Jama Network in September 2021. The study is ongoing and will continue for the next two years. [News24]
- Markets: The South African rand posted strong gains on Wednesday as the dollar retreated, gold prices rallied, and local bonds advanced. The dollar struck a one-year high on Tuesday on rising expectations that the US Federal Reserve will announce a tapering of its stimulus next month, but it dropped over 0.3% against a basket of currencies on Wednesday. That helped lift prices of precious metals like gold and platinum, key South African exports, before minutes of the Fed’s latest policy meeting were due to be released later in the session. On Thursday, the rand was trading at R14.79/$, R17.14/€ and R20.21/£.