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Arrest
Ethiopian busted with thousands cartons of illicit cigarettes
23 May 2020, 8:04 PM
Illicit cigarette trade costs South Africa’s economy billions of rands
The illicit trade in tobacco, especially cigarettes, costs South Africa’s economy billions of rands annually through the loss of tax revenue.
According to the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the estimated loss through the illegal cigarette trade for the 2015/16 financial year was R6 billion.
It seems, the illegal cigarette trade will thrive due to the ban on legal sales in the country.
In the video below , illicit cigarettes trade is discussed:

Ratings
Opposition parties react to S&P’s decision to keep SA’s rating at junk status
23 May 2020, 8:00 PM

Some opposition parties say they are not surprised by S & P Global Ratings deciding to maintain the country’s long term foreign and local currency debt ratings at junk status.

According to S&P, South Africa’s fiscal position remains weak exacerbated by the R500 billion stimulus package announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus. The ratings agency says this means government will continue to battle with a large debt burden.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), Congress of the People (COPE) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) say until there are far-reaching structural economic reforms in the country, South  Africa’s credit ratings will continue to remain non-investment grade.

The parties have also cited corruption, mismanagement and skewed policies among the reasons the country’s economy will struggle to grow.

“We will only regain our investment grade credit rating when there’s proper economic reform in South Africa. We have to change government’s economic policy away from an obsession with state control and making it easier to do business with policies that are pro growth. We’ve got to get rid of zombie SOEs like SAA and Eskom and stop giving them bailouts every year,” says DA’s Geordin Hill-Lewis.

SABC News reporter Manelisi Dubase reports further on this story in the video below:

Government has released a statement, noting Standard and Poor’s decision.

Treasury says government will next month release a special adjustments budget that will outline a range of economic reform proposals and measures to stabilise public finances amidst battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Recent downgrades

In March, Moody’s downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to “junk” status.

The ratings firm downgraded the rating one notch to ‘Ba1’ from ‘Baa3’ and maintained a negative outlook, meaning another downgrade could follow if the economy performs worse or government debt rises faster than expected.

South Africa’s Finance Ministry, at the time, said the downgrade would add to prevailing financial market stress.

Moody’s said the main driver behind the downgrade was “the continuing deterioration in fiscal strength and structurally very weak growth”.

“The unprecedented deterioration in the global economic outlook caused by the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak will exacerbate the South Africa’s economic and fiscal challenges and will complicate the emergence of effective policy responses,” it added.

Travel
Motsoaledi approves essential international travel
23 May 2020, 7:13 PM

Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has approved essential travel for South Africans who want to return to countries where they are based.

They will be allowed to leave South Africa for work, study, family reunions, permanent residency or medical attention.

The ministry says in a statement that Motsoaledi made the decision following consultations with the Department of International Relations and the National Coronavirus Command Council.

People wishing to return to such countries must provide a valid SA passport, have a letter confirming their admissibility from the relevant embassy and proof of travel tickets.

People who wish to apply are urged to send an email to COVID19travel@dha.gov.za.

Dirco won’t pay for people to return overseas

International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Naledi Pandor, this week said her  the department will not pay for South Africans who were repatriated and now want to return to their places of work overseas.

Pandor says the department has been receiving requests from people who intend to go back overseas and want the department to foot the bill. This as lockdown restrictions begin to ease in some parts of the world.

Pandor says the department will facilitate travel arrangements where possible, but will not pay for anyone to fly back.

More than 5 239 South Africans stranded abroad have since been repatriated.

Moeketsi Majoro
Majoro to prioritise Lesotho’s judiciary, security independence
23 May 2020, 6:57 PM

Lesotho’s new Prime Minister, Moeketsi Majoro, says one of his priorities is to ensure that the judiciary and security forces regain their independence.

Majoro took office this week after his party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), pushed out octogenarian, Tom Thabane.

Lesotho struggled with instability and political infighting under Thabane with the former Prime Minister using the army for some of his battles.

The judiciary was also seen as taking political sides and supporting factions.

Majoro says a reform process has been launched to ensure that the country returns to the principle of the separation of powers, which is a key hallmark of democracies.

He took the oath of office on Wednesday at the King’s palace in front of dignitaries. His predecessor, 80-year-old Thabane attended the swearing-in ceremony, but his wife Maesaiah was conspicuously absent. They are both suspects in the murder of his former wife, Lipolelo, in 2017 after she reportedly refused him a divorce.

In a brief and highly limited attendance ceremony due to the COVID-19 restriction, an emotionally looking Majoro acknowledged that he was facing tough challenges. He now has to unite the two factions and restore the trust of the nation on politicians.

Lesotho’s politics are discussed in In the video below:

Tough road ahead  

Lesotho’s upheavals sometimes turn violent, and frequently suck in South Africa, whose central mountains surround its tiny neighbour. “It is going to be very difficult for (Majoro)…to unify the ABC because its members are still disgruntled and are going to fight,” independent analyst Lefu Thaela said.

Majoro, who has also served as planning minister and a university economics lecturer, is seen as a technocrat better at analysing economic data than soothing tensions between warring political factions.

“He has been part of the warring sides himself,” Limpho Tau, leader of the Democratic Congress party, told Reuters. “It is not going to be easy to satisfy everyone.”

COVID-19 in Lesotho

Majoro will have to also lead the country at a time where Africa is facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Lesotho has two cases so far.

A Lesotho national with recent travel history to South Africa earlier this month tested positive after five days of being in quarantine. The deceased is part of an influx of Basotho travellers returning home from South Africa.

The country’s Health Director, Nyane Letsie, has urged citizens not to panic and adhere to the hygiene and protective measures and regulations. The country has to date tested less than 300 people for COVID-19. – Additional reporting by Reuters

Below is the dashboard tracking global COVID-19 cases, death toll, recoveries and more:

NICD
NICD catches sight of local SARS-CoV-2
23 May 2020, 5:50 PM

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it has caught sight of the local SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.

“This was done by culturing the virus in a high bio-containment facility, biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory which together with biosafety level 4 (BSL3) laboratory is the most advanced integrated high and maximum bio-containment infrastructure on the African continent,” the NCID said in a statement on Saturday.

Staff wore highly specialised Personel Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves during the exercise.  The organisation says successful isolation of the virus was confirmed by observing changes in the cell lines used to grow the virus, called a cytopathic effect (CPE). Confirmation that this was indeed SARS-CoV-2 was done by specific diagnostic molecular assay.

The cultured virus was visualised under a high powered electron microscope.

The head of NICD’s Centre for Emerging Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases Prof Janusz Paweska and his team are behind the study.

NICD says it will allow scientists to better understand the basic virology and pathogenicity of this novel coronavirus and enhance South Africa’s capacity to develop diagnostics and anti-viral compounds. “There is also the possibility of using laboratory-grown virus for the local development of inactivated or live-attenuated COVID-19 vaccines and contribute to effective disease prevention and control,” the statement says.

Below is the full statement on the discovery:

Below is a graph on the latest COVID-19 statistics in South Africa:

 

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