Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 29.6 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 936,000. In South Africa, there have been 1,923 new cases, taking the total reported to 653,444. Deaths have reached 15,705 (an increase of 64), while recoveries have climbed to 584,195, leaving the country with a balance of 53,544 active cases.
- Level 1: The move to lockdown level 1 has been widely welcomed, though commentators acknowledge that it will be a difficult task getting the country back to ‘normal’. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country will enter level 1 from Monday, 21 September, with restrictions lowered on various activities, including international travel. Opposition parties said that government now has to focus on economic recovery, and needs to very quickly find consensus on how to move forward. [BusinessTech, ENCA]
- Oil reserve scandal: Taxpayers will again be paying the price for former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s selling of 10.3 million barrels of the country’s strategic oil reserves for R5 billion between 2015 and 2016. The sale, which was halted, has resulted in the oil and resources companies involved suing for losses incurred. The courts are now left to calculate how much money taxpayers will have to fork over to settle the blunder. [Daily Maverick]
- Growth cut: The OECD says that South Africa will take a long time to recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, and has cut the country’s growth outlook for 2020 to -11.5%. This is significantly lower than forecasts from other economists and research houses, which have settled projections between -8% and -10%, with the Reserve Bank’s current outlook just below -7%. [Business Day – paywall]
- Water warning: The Department of Water and Sanitation says that Gauteng won’t be implementing water restrictions, despite warnings that the Vaal Dam’s water levels are severely low. The dam is recording water levels at 36% vs 57.6% last year. The dam is part of the country’s biggest water system. The lower levels are due to lower rainfall, high temperatures, and normal water usage in the province. The department expects levels to rise as the rainy season comes into full swing. [TimesLive]
- Markets: The rand saw little movement following the US Fed statement last night, bringing the overnight trading range to just over 10c. Meanwhile, the market is split on interest rate expectations by the SARB this afternoon. Economists are divided between a hold on rates, versus room for a 25 basis point cut. The MPC is expected to make an announcement this afternoon. The rand starts the day at R16.37 to the dollar, R19.27 to the euro and R21.16 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]