Flash Briefing: Mboweni vows to avert debt crisis; Ransomware linked to Transnet cyberattack; SANDF deployed to Moz

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  • South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni affirmed his commitment to reining in debt amid concerns that the coronavirus pandemic and a week of deadly riots will further erode the state’s already shaky finances. “We are not going to go to a sovereign debt crisis for now, at least not under my watch,” despite opposition to spending constraints, Mboweni said in an interview. “There is no such thing as a popular minister of finance — it doesn’t exist, it’s a contradiction in terms. You have to be unpopular.” Public finances rapidly deteriorated over the past decade as loss-making state-owned companies including Eskom and South African Airways received a series of bailouts, and the government repeatedly failed to contain its wage bill or tackle graft.
  • South Africa’s port and rail company appears to have been targeted with a strain of ransomware that cybersecurity experts have linked to a series of high-profile data breaches likely carried out by crime gangs from Eastern Europe and Russia. The hackers left a ransom note on Transnet’s computers, seen by Bloomberg News, claiming they encrypted the company’s files, including a terabyte of personal data, financial reports and other documents. The note instructed the firm to visit a chat portal on the dark web to enter negotiations. The cyberattack on July 22 caused the company to declare force majeure at container terminals and switch to manual processing of cargo. Transnet’s Durban port alone handles more than half of the nation’s shipments and is the main gateway for other commodity exporters including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. The disruption follows deadly protests in South Africa earlier this month that also interrupted operations.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the use of 1,495 members of the military to help neighbour Mozambique fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency, parliament said on Wednesday. The use of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) comes as regional bloc Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in June approved the deployment of troops to Mozambique to combat a conflict that began in 2017 and has killed thousands. Ramaphosa said the SANDF personnel would be used between July 15 and October 15 at an expected cost of R984m, a letter sent to the speaker of parliament showed.