Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 8,561 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,976,613. Deaths have reached 89,871 (+28), while recoveries have climbed to 2,850,142, leaving the country with a balance of 36,600 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 25,782,259 (+162,368).
- Mandates: Legal experts at Webber Wentzel have moved to clear up the purported ‘legal grounds’ employees have for refusing vaccine mandates at work. This follows a bid from certain groups to give so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ a blanket response via letter to employers seeking to apply vaccine mandates in the workplace. The anti-vaccine letter argues that mandates cannot be enforced on those who uphold their right to privacy by not disclosing their vaccine status. It also contains a host of other grounds. Legal experts have contextualised these arguments in terms of actual law, stressing that individual rights are not absolute. [Daily Maverick]
- Higher fuel prices: Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says that if e-tolls are scrapped, fuel prices will likely increase even further as fuel levies will need to be increased to cover the costs. This would add pain to motorists who already pay over R20 a litre for petrol following yet another price hike in December. Mantashe said that the government could do nothing to fight rising prices beyond changing the formula – something which is not on the cards. E-tolls were introduced in 2011 and have been rejected by the majority of motorists who refuse to pay. The system was adopted without public consultation and buy-in from the start. [News24]
- Electricity prices: Energy regulator Nersa has admitted that, despite wanting the courts to order Eskom to adopt a new methodology to calculate its tariff increases, it does not have one in place. Nersa wants Eskom to consider its unbundling and different types of power supply in determining future pricing. It currently uses a method where it ‘claws back’ lost revenue. However, Eskom argued that there is not enough time to adopt a new methodology before tariff hikes take effect in 2022, saying it needs nine months to do the recalculations on top of the six months Nersa needs to do proper consultations. Eskom is seeking to hike electricity tariffs by 20% in 2022. [Moneyweb]
- Rage: Despite the clear dangers involved with hosting a massive festival, the Plettenburg Bay Rage will continue, its organisers have said. This follows the announcement that the Ballito Rage would be cancelled after 36 attendees tested positive for Covid-19. The Plett Rage organisers said it has passed the point of no return, as all the festival attendees will be in the holiday destination anyway. Over 900 young people are expected to attend. The latest surge in Covid cases in South Africa is driven by the new Omicron variant, which is more prevalent in young people. The Rage organisers said that only vaccinated individuals will be allowed in. [ENCA]
- Markets: The rand and stocks continued their recovery on Wednesday from last week’s plunge, as risk appetite returned somewhat to markets, with investors betting that the Omicron Covid-19 variant would not derail the economic recovery. Calm has somewhat returned to markets, following remarks from South African health experts and some drugmakers that Covid-19 vaccines were likely to offer protection against any severe disease from the Omicron variant. On Thursday, the rand was trading at R16.03/$, R18.14/€ and R21.30/£. [Reuters]