Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 5,920 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,546,808. Deaths have reached 92,989 (+159), while recoveries have climbed to 3,346,936, leaving the country with a balance of 106,883 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 28,782,337.
- Dead in the water: Opposition parties and civil action groups have welcomed the High Court ruling that the controversial Aarto traffic laws are unconstitutional and now invalid. The court ruling said the laws – which were in the process of being applied nationally – usurped the powers of provincial governments and were written in such a way that they could not be easily amended to correct this. Groups like Outa and the AA have heavily criticised the laws for years as a money-making scheme for the government, while opposition parties have decried the negative impact the laws would have had on businesses. Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has noted the ruling. [Moneyweb, EWN]
- Omicron: Professor Tulio de Oliveira from the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Krisp institute says the Omicron variant is much milder when it comes to deaths and hospitalisation. New research on the variant coming from the Western Cape Department of Health shows that the Omicron virus caused four times fewer hospitalisations than previous variants. This is mostly due to vaccinations and previous infections in the population, the professor said, but also about a quarter (25%) due to the virus itself. At this phase of the pandemic, De Oliveira said we’re dealing with a virus that naturally causes less disease – especially in those who are vaccinated. [ENCA]
- Deployment: Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says that “attacks” on deployment contained within the State Capture Report are an attack on democracy and transformation, and warned that, should the practice be stopped in the coal sector, it would do untold damage to the government’s transformation agenda. Mantashe said he was going through the report at the behest of the president, and warned that it contained a “heavy attack on deployment”. He said the government’s direct interventions were necessary to transform industries from white domination. Cadre deployment was highlighted by the State Capture Commission as being key to corrupt individuals capturing state-owned companies. [News24]
- Sisulu: Pressure is mounting for tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu to withdraw her recent comments criticising the country’s constitution and judiciary. In two op-eds in the past week, Sisulu questioned the rule of law in South Africa, claiming that the constitution was not working for Africans, keeping them in poverty. Her remarks have drawn the ire of lawyers, judges, opposition parties, and acting chief justice Raymond Zondo. Commentators and analysts have called for her to resign over the piece, while others have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action against her. Sisulu has also seen some support, with other analysts defending her right to freedom of speech. [Daily Maverick, News24]
- Markets: South Africa’s rand slipped back on Thursday, after strong gains a day earlier when the dollar retreated on US inflation data. The rand advanced more than 1% on Wednesday, as traders interpreted a rise in US consumer prices in December as insufficient to alter the Federal Reserve’s plans to speed up policy normalisation. There have been relatively few domestic economic data releases this week, so the rand has tended to track global factors, especially the outlook for US monetary policy. On Friday, the rand was at R15.40/$, R17.68/€ and R/£. [Reuters]