Here’s what is happening in and affecting South Africa today:
Coronavirus: In South Africa, there have been 1,266 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,673,257. Deaths have reached 99,229 (+38), while recoveries have climbed to 3,541,730, leaving the country with a balance of 32,298 active cases and a recovery rate of 96,4%. A total of 31,439,128 vaccines have been administered.
- Russian relations: The South African government is attempting to patch up relations with Russia following the minister of international relations and cooperation Naledi Pandor’s call for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. President Cyril Ramaphosa was reportedly caught off guard and is unhappy with Pandor’s statement as he felt it contradicted South Africa’s official stance, which is to remain neutral and call for mediation. Other members of the BRICS bloc – an associate of five major emerging economies including Russia and South Africa – have refrained from criticising Putin’s invasion. [Daily Maverick]
- Mandatory vaccination: The acting director-general of the health department says that the government has not made vaccinations mandatory because that would be illegal. He stressed that private businesses could impose mandatory vaccination policies; however, the government could not impose such policies on public servants. He further said that it is not the sole responsibility of the department of health to solve the low vaccination problem in South Africa but other departments such as the department of trade and industry, and the department of sports, arts and culture. [MyBroadband]
- Doctors law reform: The South African Medico-Legal Association, which represents medical and legal practitioners and other leading healthcare organisations, has urged the government to review the law surrounding culpable homicide and its application in healthcare settings. The healthcare organisations argued that the current law has a low threshold of criminal culpability. They said that even if a healthcare practitioner acts in good faith or the error of judgment is slight, it can be easy for the prosecution to formulate charges and secure a criminal conviction. This follows two separate cases in 2019 in which the state showed its intent to proceed more eagerly in cases of this matter. [Moneyweb]
- Taxing the wealthy: SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter says that the revenue service’s new unit for the super-wealthy is not there to ‘go after’ wealthy taxpayers but was established to provide clarity on the tax obligations this demographic has, to ease compliance, and assist them in their tax affairs with minimal fuss. The unit is focused on assessing the nature of income within this demographic – where their wealth comes from – and any onshore/offshore financial arrangements and the legal structures of ownership that their wealth is tied up in. Kieswetter said that the unit will make their lives much easier for honest taxpayers. [Daily Maverick]
- Markets: The South African rand advanced early on Friday, supported by higher precious metal prices and a weaker dollar. The price of critical South African exports of gold and platinum group metals rose as investors assessed the fallout from the Ukraine crisis and fresh sanctions imposed by the West against Russia. Gold is a safe haven for investors, while sanctions imposed by the West against Russia run the risk of tightening global supplies of platinum and palladium. This Monday, the rand is trading at R15.36/$, R17.12/€ and R20.49/£. [Nasdaq]