News in South Africa 27th March:
1. First lockdown arrests made:
Several people have been arrested for allegedly disregarding South Africa’s lockdown rules that officially kicked in at midnight on Thursday.
SABC News reported that the South African Police Service (SAPS) raided taverns and clubs where people were gathering and drinking in the early hours of Friday morning.
This week, ahead of the lockdown, Police Minister Bheki Cele warned of consequences for those who attempt to leave their homes, unless for essential purposes, such as buying groceries, seeking medical attention, collecting grants, buying medication, or emergencies.
No store is allowed to sell alcohol or cigarettes during the 21 days and anyone who contravenes the lockdown regulations will be found guilty of a criminal offence and will be fined or jailed for a period not exceeding six months, or both, Cele warned during a media briefing on Wednesday.
Restaurants, clubs, taverns and bars must also be closed during this period.
2. Junk status on the horizon:
Get ready for the Moody’s blues: South Africa will probably be downgraded to junk before the end of today. But the impact on the rand and bond yields may be muted as the fiscal position of many other countries has also deteriorated since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The rand was last stronger at R17.17/$.
3. Edcon might not survive lockdown:
On a conference call this morning, Edcon CEO Grant Pattison broke down, telling suppliers the company only has sufficient liquidity to pay salaries but is “unable to honour any other accounts payable during this period”.
Following the president’s first announcement on Sunday, 15 March, Edcon’s turnover has declined 45% in comparison to the same period last year.
Pattison told suppliers that by the end of today, when the country goes into lockdown, Edcon “will be about R400m below forecasted sales and cash for the month”.
He says Edcon is prioritising paying salaries to staff during these extremely uncertain times.
In the call, Pattison told suppliers that they would next week turn their attention to building a re-opening plan.
“Management will continue to look at all options – and there may be some really tough recommendations to be made to the board after the lockdown period, including having to consider business rescue. CIPC have for the moment issued a practice note explaining they will “not invoke its powers under Section 22 of the Companies Act” for reasons related to the Corona Crisis, for a period of time.
4. US highest infected country:
As the US overtakes China with the most coronavirus cases (82 400), the country has reported a record number of unemployment claims (3.3 million) in a week. Still, Wall Street boomed for the third consecutive day. The US House of Representatives is expected to approve a $2.2 trillion stimulus plan today.
5. Government Covid-19 link:
As of Thursday, every website with a domain name that ends in .za – including every company website that uses the .co.za suffix, every organisation in .org.za, and every academic institution in .ac.za – must link to the South African government’s Covid-19 portal at sacoronavirus.co.za.
That link must be “visible”, and must be on the front page of the website, according to regulations gazetted by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
The site, formally known as the Covid-19 South African Online Portal, contains information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, plus statistics on its spread in SA and related government press releases.
According to the ZA Domain Name Authority, the body that oversees the assignment of names within the .za space, there are currently 1.3 million registered names that end in .za, though not all of those have active associated websites.
The regulations do not say what will happen to websites that do not comply, and do not specify a deadline by when websites must be updated, though the rules are immediately in force.
The requirement for a link to the website is part of interventions that also say that broadcasters must spread “public information related to the national effort to combat the spread of Covid-19 in all local languages including sign language”.