Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 4,322 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,568,900. Deaths have reached 93,707 (+156), while recoveries have climbed to 3,390,027, leaving the country with a balance of 85,166 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 29,164,224.
- Full time: The Democratic Alliance is heading to court to force the Department of Basic Education to end rotational teaching in South Africa. The party argues that there is no justification for the practice, describing it as irrational and unequal. Schools have a one-metre social distancing rule in place, forcing many to split classes, meaning learners only attend 50% of their lessons in person. However, the DA said that while schools abide by social distancing laws, the rest of the country – politicians especially – disregard them for rallies, strikes and other gatherings. The party says schools should return to full-time classes with the academic year in full swing. [EWN]
- Vaping: National Treasury is setting its sights on the e-cigarette and vaping market, with a discussion paper on the intended taxation of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems. The paper was published in mid-December and sets the groundwork for possible taxes on these products in the coming 2022 Budget. Vaping products are largely unregulated in South Africa – falling behind other countries which have placed restrictions on the products and related items. The industry is approaching R3 billion in value in South Africa and presents another avenue for Treasury to draw taxes and other excise duties. [Moneyweb]
- Unlawful: Amnesty International says that politicians need to stop blaming their employment crises on foreign nationals, adding that it is scapegoating their own failures and shifting the blame and responsibility onto an incredibly vulnerable group of people. The comments come after the EFF hopped on the anti-foreigner sentiment in South Africa by conducting unsanctioned ‘checks’ on businesses, looking for instances of foreign labour being used instead of local workers. Political parties have called the EFF’s actions a form of workplace terrorism and feeding xenophobia, while legal experts say the EFF’s actions were unlawful and likely breached personal information protection laws. [ENCA, 702]
- Zuma: Corruption-accused Jacob Zuma is hammering every legal nail he has to keep his corruption trial at bay. He is now seeking to appeal the dismissal of his “special plea” application to have all charges against him dropped. Even if this appeal is dismissed, Zuma is insistent that the appeal goes to the Supreme Court to have ‘questions of law’ answered. The NPA argues that Zuma can only appeal once convicted and sentenced. The move is the latest in an almost 20-year battle by Zuma’s legal team to keep the trial at bay. Zuma is also fighting the State Capture Commission by flooding the courts with appeals, interdicts and other applications. [News24]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand edged higher on Wednesday as a dollar rally cooled, and analysts predicted the country’s central bank would raise interest rates next week. The rand had been dragged lower on Tuesday by rising US Treasury yields which supported the dollar. A Reuters poll predicted the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) would raise its main lending rate by another 25 basis points to 4.00% on 27 January to combat rising inflation, which could support the rand. On Thursday, the rand was trading at R15.31/$, R17.37/€ and R20.86/£. [Reuters]