Flash Briefing: Vaccines en route to SA; Toyota: 1,500 new jobs; Eskom to charge you more for solar power; Zuma; Zim

Headlines:

  • South Africa’s first vaccines arrive in the country on February 1, signalling the start of an inoculation program that has been criticised for its tardiness, reports Bloomberg. The first million of 1.5 million doses of the shot developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford and produced by the Serum Institute of India Ltd. have been cleared by South African regulators for use, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said at a press conference Wednesday. They will be ready for distribution 10 to 14 days later, he said. The campaign will prioritise 1.25 million health workers although the double shot regime of the vaccine means that only 750,000 can be inoculated.
  • Toyota South Africa will start manufacturing a new model, the Corolla Cross, in the country this year, creating 1,500 new jobs of which 500 will be at its production plant in the east coast town of Durban, CEO and president Andrew Kirby said on Thursday. Reuters notes that the announcement comes after a rough year for the country’s car makers, with both local sales and exports down by around 30% amid extended lockdowns at home and in key markets abroad to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Kirby said the investment in the production of the Corolla Cross, set to start at the end of 2021, would help it make good on – and even surpass – a pledge to invest R2.4bn ($158.5m) in South Africa, taking it closer to R3bn, adds Reuters.
  • Mining companies in Zimbabwe said a central-bank requirement compelling them to surrender more foreign exchange earned from mineral exports will push their operations to the brink, reports Bloomberg. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe on Jan. 8 announced that exporters must now hand over 40% of their foreign currency earnings, up from 30%, which is then paid out in the local currency. The country’s mining body said the move would create “a viability crisis” for the industry as members already face increased demand for payment in hard currency from various government agencies, suppliers and service providers. “On average, 60% of gross export proceeds are now taken by government departments and agencies, leaving inadequate forex resources for the mining firms to sustain operations,” the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe said in a letter to the central bank dated Jan. 19 and seen by Bloomberg. The move could lead to lower output, and the suspension of exploration, maintenance and expansion activities including investment in power projects, it said. The Southern African nation generates more than half of its foreign exchange via mineral exports from companies including the local units of Johannesburg-based Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum. Central bank governor John Mangudya wouldn’t comment on the contents of the letter. “The retention rules are made always in mind with the foreign currency situation and needs of the country to source fuel, wheat and to pay for other goods and services,” he said by phone from the capital, Harare. “Foreign currency retention is not a right, but a privilege.”
  • Eskom wants South Africans with solar panels to pay more for electricity. Eskom presented its new plans for electricity tariffs to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa on Tuesday, outlining the new electricity price structure it wants to implement, reports MyBroadband. co.za The power utility’s new retail tariffs propose significant changes for electricity users across South Africa, with specific measures implemented to prevent the loss of revenue from South Africans using solar panels to generate their own electricity. One of Eskom’s proposed measures is the splitting of energy tariffs into fixed and variable costs, which would make Eskom more attractive when compared to alternate energy sources like solar power, it said.
  • South Africa’s highest court on Thursday ordered former President Jacob Zuma to appear before a commission investigating corruption allegations against him after he walked out of proceedings in November. The commission has the power to compel witnesses to appear before it and failure to obey will be a breach of law, the Constitutional Court said in a judgement posted on Twitter. Zuma would have to obey all summons and directives issued by the commission and did not have a right to remain silent, the ruling said.  The commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, applied to the Constitutional Court in November to compel Zuma to appear after he walked out during a break in proceedings. The former president has been mostly uncooperative with the commission, and has unsuccessfully called for Zondo to recuse himself from the case.

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