News in South Africa 24th November:

1. SARB rate hike today:

The rand firmed overnight to trade below R17 to the US dollar on Thursday morning – its strongest level since late August.

SARB rate hike today
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The local currency was trading at R16.93 at around 06:00, buoyed by news out of the US that the Federal Reserve may taper its interest rate hikes.

Now, the focus locally will be on South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) governor Lesetja Kganyago’s repo rate announcement on Thursday afternoon.

It remains to be seen whether the Sarb’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will be swayed in any way by sentiments out of the US Federal Open Market Committee’s minutes from its November meeting.

The release of the minutes late on Thursday night (SA time), saw the dollar weaken against the rand and other emerging market currencies, as the Fed signalled possible slower rate hikes.

The Fed also flagged concerns around the US possibly going into a recession – sentiments that some market commentators and economists see as another indication of the Fed wanting to temper the hiking cycle.

On the local front, however, SA’s latest headline inflation number came in higher for October on Wednesday. This is likely to add pressure on the Sarb to be more conservative or hawkish in its sentiments and repo rate decision.

Following the release of October’s CPI data, most local economists and market watchers have reiterated their expectations that the Sarb will have no option but to hike the repo rate sharply by another 75 basis points on Thursday.

2. Eskom gains diesel lifeline:

The minister of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, says that his department has found 50 million litres of diesel for the national power utility Eskom from state-owned PetroSA.

Responding to questions in a National Assembly plenary, Gordhan said that over this week, his department has been liaising between Eskom and PetroSA to find a way – within the limited resources the power utility currently has – to make diesel immediately available to Eskom.

“By the evening and this morning, 50 million litres of diesel have been found, have been provided by PetroSA. Some of those litres travel by pipeline, some by truck.”

Diesel is needed to fuel Eskom’s open-cycle gas turbines, used to produce electricity during peak periods of demand across the nation. The turbines can cover around two stages of load shedding.

Despite being designed solely for peaks where the regular coal-powered stations cannot meet demand, South Africa has become dependent on its diesel-fueled systems to ward off higher levels of load shedding.

Gordhan has also been in conversation with Finance Minster Enoch Godongwana to discuss a more permanent solution to the issue of low diesel reserves.

“We have taken steps to find funding. Firstly, as a matter of urgency, the Minister of Finance and I talked on Sunday evening about where money could be found. Secondly, there was a meeting between my delegation and the Minister of Finance’s delegation about the challenges Eskom faced,” he said.

Gordhan said that earlier this year, a number of plans were developed to ensure generation is more stable earlier – but clearly, not enough has been done.

3. Home based antigen tests available:

Cheap at-home antigen tests are now available in South Africa – more than two years after the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) first approved them for use by healthcare professionals only.

SAHPRA has awarded a license to resell the tests for at-home use to Johannesburg-based company TipTop Trade, who were the first in the country to obtain approval for a Covid-19 antibody test in July 2020. The company initially imported a range of products and equipment but has since rebranded to TipTop Medical.

The license for TipTop Trade to sell the tests is presumably the first of many that will follow in subsequent weeks as more companies seek and gain approval – and signals a relaxing of at-home testing by SAHPRA that has been prohibited until now.

Although polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests remain the gold standard for accurately confirming a Covid-19 case, antigen tests are cheaper and faster. And for several years now, residents of many countries abroad, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have had access to these – often at no cost.

Although antigen tests are not as good at detecting Covid-19 as PCR tests, particularly in asymptomatic people, they’ve been widely used by governments, including South Africa’s, to detect possible cases at points of entry. 

Elsewhere, self-testing has become popular ahead of large social gatherings, particularly those that involve elderly family members, like birthdays and Christmas. It has also proven useful as other similar illnesses like the common cold and flu have returned after a brief Covid-19 hiatus, often with similar symptoms.

Yet despite their widespread use cases, SAHPRA has until now declined to allow at-home Covid-19 testing – despite South Africa’s top Covid-19 advisors recommending it.

4. ANC’s battle for control:

Following the announcement of the ANC’s top six nominations, the real battle for control of the ruling party has begun, with lines being drawn between factions and opposing talking points emerging.

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize has reacted to making it on to the nominations list for the 55th national elective conference ballot where he will vie with current leader Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of ANC president. 

This week the party released names of candidates nominated by its 4,000 branches to contest the top six positions at its elective conference in December.

Branches endorsed Ramaphosa for a second term with more than 2,037 nominations, while Mkhize got 916 votes.

Speaking on SABC News, Mkhize said branches nominated him to rescue the ruling party from its many challenges. He said the ANC needs to be effective in addressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, rising food prices and load-shedding.

“We have been nominated by branches and we have responded to the call. The branches are feeling that there’s a need for us to do something to rescue the ANC from being a party that is deeply divided with factionalism and a party that has good policies that have not been implemented,” he said. 

The former minister previously took a swipe at Ramaphosa, saying the country cannot afford “another five years of directionless leadership”. 

He said the ANC’s existence as a tool for improving the lives of South Africans is under threat.  

5. Police must fight fire with fire:

Members of the South African Police Service are expected to fight fire with fire over the festive season.

Police Minister Bheki Cele delivered the second quarter crime statistics on Wednesday.

The recent numbers show that most categories of crime including murder, rape and sexual assault were significantly higher in the second quarter of 2022 than in 2021.

The message from Cele used to be “shoot to kill” when he was the police commissioner.

In his role as Police Minister, Cele suggested that the men and women in blue must fight fire with fire.

Cele said fighting crime came at a cost for the police force.

Twenty-two police officers were killed in the three months between July and September – which is two members less compared to the same reporting period last year, said Cele.

“It is on this note that this ministry will never stop calling on SAPS members to defend themselves at ALL times from ruthless criminals whenever they are under attack. It is quite simple; police must meet fire with fire!”

Cele said his ministry will never stop calling on officers to protect themselves.

All information sourced from articles posted by: Moneyweb, BusinessTech, Business Insider, TimesLive, and EWN.

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