Flash Briefing: 4,000 South Africans get Covid AGAIN; SAA wants another R3.5bn; SABC tax revolt; Liberty; Sasol

  • About 4,000 cases of re-infection with Covid-19 have been found in South Africa, Barry Schoub, the chair of the country’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, said. “This is probably to a large extent due to the variant” of the virus that was first identified in the country, he said on a webinar. The mutation, known by scientists as B.1.351, was identified in the country last year and has become the dominant strain in the nation. With over 1.5 million known coronavirus infections and almost 50,000 deaths, South Africa has been the hardest-hit country on the continent.
  • Administrators for South African Airways have asked for R3.5bn ($239m) more in state funding than was allocated in October, according to the country’s Budget Review presented on Wednesday. A further R5.3bn is being sought from outside entities, according to the document. But no further cash has put aside for the carrier by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. The government’s repeated bailouts of SAA have long been controversial, given the country’s economic difficulties and precarious finances. The issue has become even more emotive given travel curbs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which have seen the airline’s fleet grounded since March 2020 and showing little sign of an imminent return to the skies.
  • The SABC is facing an uphill battle to increase TV licence compliance rates, as it faces a tax revolt against corruption and mismanagement at the state broadcaster. That’s according to MyBroadband.co.za, which says SABC CFO Yolande van Biljon recently revealed that only 2.5 million of 9.5 million TV licence holders on their database paid their TV licence fees last year. The SABC billed around R3bn in TV licence fees per year but was only able to collect around R791m. Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) CEO Wayne Duvenage said the low compliance rate is a clear sign that it is a tax revolt.
  • Liberty Holdings expects to report a loss for the year ended in December after the Covid-19 pandemic hammered its insurance operations in South Africa. The company created what it called a pandemic reserve of about R3bn ($207m) to honour client claims and saw investment returns from its shareholder investment portfolio fall. These and other factors led to a loss in the first half of 2020.
  • Norway’s $1.3trn wealth fund blacklisted 15 companies for ethical misconduct – including Anglo American, Sasol and Glencore. The fund said the 15 stocks it excluded from its portfolio last year were singled out based on ethical considerations ranging from human rights violations to severe environmental damage.

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