Another rand/stock bloodbath; No civil service increases; SA won’t run out; Political party unity; SA Express flights

By Linda van Tilburg

  • The Rand and stock market in South Africa tumbled again yesterday with the currency sinking to a four-year low, while stocks dropped to 2013 levels and bond yields spiked. The Rand traded around R17 for a dollar for most of the day, more than 3% weaker than its previous close and by the end of the day you needed R17.15 to buy a dollar. The All Share Index plummeted by 7.15% with the top 15 Financial companies losing 12.43% of their value; resources were down 8.54%. Platinum miners suffered heavy losses with Anglo Platinum shares dropping by 24% and Implats fell by more than 23%. Sasol shares dropped another 7.3% trading at R34 a share and Naspers fell by more than 6%. Companies that showed more resilience were Kumba Iron ore that registered an 8.85% rise. British American Tobacco climbed by 4.6% and Richemont clawed back some of its earlier losses with shares rising 1.42% and sister company Reinet rose by 1.18%. All eyes are now on the Reserve Bank as it holds a crucial monetary policy meeting where they are expected to consider measures to stimulate the economy and a possible interest rate cut.
  • Wage increases for South Africa’s 1.3 million civil servants are going to be scrapped despite an increase previously agreed for the beginning of April, according to Bloomberg that reports that it could potentially trigger protests despite the ban on large gatherings. Some trade unions including the National Education, Health and Allied Workers union with 280,000 members want to proceed with mass action despite attempts from Cosatu to dissuade them. NEHAWU said they were planning a ‘warning-shot march’ to Pretoria; if the wage agreement was not implemented as it was not something they were going to let go. The South African Democratic Teachers union and 240,000 member Public Servants Association however indicated that they would be following the legal route.
  • The Consumer Goods Council has called on all South Africans to stop panic buying. It follows scenes of South Africans queuing and bulk buying groceries with empty shelves yesterday in many supermarkets. Hand sanitisers, soaps, alcohol rubs, painkillers and tinned food were cleared out. The council’s Patricia Pillay said there was no need for consumers to be emptying shelves as food supplies would not run out and the council are considering measures to limit essential items. She urged consumer not to hoard goods. Pillay said she had been assured that the closure of some of the country’s ports of entry would not affect food supply. Suppliers of sanitisers said they would be increasing supply. Pillay also said there are action plans in place and the government would be supporting that.
  • Political parties in South Africa, the ANC, Democratic Alliance, Economic Freedom Fighters, IFP and ACDP showed a rare sign of unity yesterday as they agreed to a joint national and non-partisan response to the coronavirus. It included a call for citizens to refrain from making excessive purchases to ensure that the supply of goods remain continuous and that the supply chain remains intact. President Cyril Ramaphosa said there was no need for stockpiling of any items. The Democratic Alliance called on the government to help small businesses while the leader of the EFF Julius Malema warned private hospitals that they should cooperate, or risk being nationalised. Positive cases of the coronavirus rose to over a hundred yesterday, but no deaths have been recorded in South Africa.
  • SA Express has suspended all flights until further notice. The airline said it would accommodate customers on alternative flights and non-critical staff would go on compulsory leave. SA Express said in a statement that they would use this period to review their current network and streamline operations for improved efficiency. The airline said recent developments including the impact of the coronavirus on the aviation industry had prompted the decision. The suspension of operations follows a high court decision ordering the airline to be placed under business rescue which was lodged by a transport company seeking to recover funds from SA Express. The airline has also been trying to retrieve revenue owed to it by  South African Airways.
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