Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 5,668 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,534,131. Deaths have reached 92,649 (+119), while recoveries have climbed to 3,298,672, leaving the country with a balance of 142,810 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 28,508,583.
- State of disaster: Dean of the University of Witwatersrand’s faculty of health sciences and professor of vaccinology, Shabir Madhi says there is no reason to renew the state of disaster. He says that the country has effectively lifted all restrictions and that it now needs to work on rebuilding the economy. The National Coronavirus Command Council also needs greater oversight, he said. Acting deputy director-general of the health department, Nicholas Crisp said that the national state of disaster is still needed to give effect to standing lockdown restrictions like the public mask mandate. [BusinessLive]
- Taxi fund: Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that the government will move ahead with its plan to set up a R1.1 billion fund to subsidise the South African taxi industry, despite criticism. The minister said that the taxi industry is the backbone of the South African transport sector and will be treated as such. Taxi operators have been left in the lurch since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and have been promised government support for the better part of two years. Under the support fund, individual operators with a valid operating licence will receive a once-off payment of R5,000 each in subsidies. [EWN]
- Low significance: Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says that there’s no need for his department to review the decision granting Shell exploration rights on the Wild Coast, because it has already deemed the gas and oil exploration activities would not have a detrimental impact on the environment. The minister’s comments are in contrast to the High Court ruling which found evidence that the seismic survey would irreparably harm marine life. Communities on the Wild Coast rallied and launched a court bid for an urgent interdict against Shell’s activities. Mantashe said the project was being “oppressed” over environmental concerns that have “low significance”. [News24]
- Reckless: The government has distanced itself from tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s “reckless” tirade against South Africa’s constitution, where she suggested that it has done nothing but keep the masses in poverty. In her rant, Sisulu – who has been a part of the ruling government since it was voted into power in 1994 – said the Constitution gave rise to a sea of poverty and didn’t do enough for transformation and economic reconciliation. The opinion piece was widely panned, saying the points raised were a result of a failure of government, not the constitution. Minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said the piece grossly misrepresented the constitution and undermines the rule of law. [TimesLive]
- Markets: The South African rand strengthened slightly on Tuesday, as the dollar struggled for momentum ahead of US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s congressional hearing. The rand has tended to track global factors in recent sessions and is highly sensitive to shifts in the outlook for US monetary policy. In a light week for domestic economic data, Statistics South Africa figures on Tuesday showed November manufacturing output fell 0.7% year-on-year, following a revised 8.5% slump in October when a major metalworkers’ union was on strike. On Wednesday, the rand was at R15.50/$, R17.63/€ and R21.15/£. [Reuters]