Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: Global Covid-19 infections have hit 21.9 million confirmed, with the death toll reaching 775,000. In South Africa, there have been 2,258 new cases, taking the total reported to 592,144. Deaths have reached 12,264 (an increase of 282), while recoveries have climbed to 485,468, leaving the country with a balance of 94,412 active cases.
Load shedding: Stage 2 will again be implemented from 09h00 until 22h00 today.
- Mixed market: Illegal booze and cigarettes are here to stay, says market research firm Euromonitor. Despite the lifting of the ban on these items in South Africa, the research firm notes that illicit networks and distribution channels established during the prohibition have been able to thrive for so long that they will likely remain in place for some time. Government has already lost billions in tax revenue from the ban, and will continue to lose out unless it can boost detection and enforcement. [TimesLive]
- Stern warning: National Treasury has warned that if South Africa cannot arrest its ballooning state debt, any default or financial crisis could see the country lose R2 trillion by the end of the decade. The warning comes in the latest technical guidelines published by Treasury, which is pushing its message of austerity and strategic spending across government departments. Treasury wants departments to cut spending in their budget votes ahead of the mid-term budget – saying there are no sacred cows when it comes to what could be adjusted. [Moneyweb]
- At the trough: The Gauteng provincial government has published its first Covid-19 Expenditure Disclosure Report, which attempts to break down how Covid-19 relief funds were spent, with who, and on what. The report lists 358 suppliers of protective equipment, with R2.1 billion spent over 13 departments. However, civil group Outa flagged 55 companies being registered with government from 1 March, many set up just to score contracts, and 48 of which won tenders totalling R1.85 billion. [Daily Maverick]
- Power crisis: Energy expert Ted Blom says that South Africans should expect load shedding to be a recurring feature for the next five years, as Eskom struggles to deal with its power problems. This is longer than the three-year projection from the CSIR, and much longer than the 12-month estimate from Eskom itself. The outlook could be improved if Eskom turns to eternal power sources, like power ships, Blom says, but internal politics, corruption and ‘turf wars’ will likely hamper any attempts to improve things. [MyBroadband]
- Markets: The rand was boosted by movements in the dollar on Tuesday, where the greenback plummeted to two-year lows as the market turns its attention to the US Fed, while the US government stalemate regarding the Covid-19 relief package drags on. The weaker dollar saw gold push above the $2,000 mark again, while the local currency clawed back ground against the dollar overnight. On Wednesday the rand is trading at R17.32 to the dollar, R20.68 to the euro and R22.94 to the pound. Commentary by Peregrine Treasury Solutions. [XE]