Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 1,995 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,677,686. Deaths have reached 99,458 (+28), while recoveries have climbed to 3,552,788, leaving the country with a balance of 25,440 active cases and a recovery rate of 96,6%. A total of 31,764,283 vaccines have been administered.
- Abstain: The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine in a two-day long emergency session this week, where nations worldwide debated the conflict. The GA adopted a resolution that condemns Russia for the invasion and demands that it immediately withdraw from Ukraine. The resolution – which is not enforceable but serves as a strong political statement – was supported by 141 out of 193 member states. Five countries, including Russia, opposed and 35 countries, including South Africa, abstained. South Africa’s stance on the conflict is neutrality, calling for mediation. [ENCA]
- Interest rate hikes: As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is set to enter its seventh day and oil prices surge past $110 a barrel, South African markets are pricing in the prospect that the South African Reserve Bank may be forced to accelerate interest rate hikes. On Wednesday, South African local bonds fell with their international counterparts, pushing benchmark yields to the highest level since December 2021. The prospect of interest rate hikes follows the SARB governor announcing that the central bank decided to lift the repo rate to 4% in January. Economists are now pointing towards the SARB’s plan to increase the repo rate to 5% by year-end. [BusinessLive]
- Delayed road projects: R16 billion in Sanral tenders have been formally announced but not yet awarded, some even after a year, and major contractors don’t know why. Analysts estimate the total value of delayed Sanral contracts could be up to R25 billion. JSE-listed construction companies said the delays are occurring despite president Cyril Ramaphosa’s repeated assurances that infrastructure is central to the government’s economic reconstruction and recovery. Some companies have said that the delays might be due to Sanral’s board not having the correct experience to determine whether a bid is competitive or not and whether the contractor will be able to complete the work. [Moneyweb]
- State Capture: ANC chair and energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe says that he will challenge the findings of the latest Zondo Commission report that implicates him as in a corruption scandal surrounding government tenders and favours with a security company. Mantashe’s stance goes against the party’s public comments about the commission and even his own views of “renewal” within the party. The minister previously expressed support for the commission and its findings and the clampdown on corruption happening inside the ANC and its structures. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: Commodity-exporting economies rallied on Wednesday as oil and metal prices soared after Western sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Sanctions have crushed Russia’s currency from trading at 106 rubles to the dollar to a new low of 110. Oil exporters are benefitting from the international crisis as crude prices jump over $110 a barrel on expectations that the market will remain short of supply for months to come. The rand is trading at R15.33/$, R17.02/€ and R20.55/£. [Reuters]