Covid-19 could kill 300,000 in Africa, 50+ SA deaths; Cape gangsters feed poor; SA banks to help small business

By Jackie Cameron

In today’s news headlines:

  • The Covid-19 pandemic will likely kill at least 300,000 and risks pushing 29 million into extreme poverty across Africa, the UN Economic Commission for Africa warns. It has called for a $100bn safety net for the continent, reports Reuters. Africa’s 54 countries have so far reported fewer than 20,000 cases of the disease, just a fraction of the more than two million cases reported globally. But the World Health Organisation says that Africa could see as many as 10 million cases in three to six months, says the news service.
  • The number of Covid-19 deaths in SA now exceeds 50. There have been more than 3,000 confirmed cases in SA, after more than 108,000 people have been tested, says the South African government. Gauteng reports more than 1,100 cases, the Western Cape more than 800 and KwaZulu-Natal has the third-highest number of Covid-19 cases, with more than 600.
  • As the government grapples with finalising a plan to feed a growing number of desperately hungry people amid the Covid-19 national lockdown, shelters say they are seeing starving people who have not eaten for up to a week, says the Sunday Times. A cabinet meeting on Monday is expected to consider proposals to provide relief to save millions from hunger – including a temporary increase in social grants and introduction of a basic income grant. This comes amid growing calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce a bold stimulus package for SA. The Solidarity Fund has started delivering food parcels to more than 250,000 families across South Africa, says the SA government news agency. The Solidarity Fund, which receives donations from corporates, citizens and foundations, has made R120m available for food relief for distressed families.
  • Warring gangs in the Western Cape have made international television headlines as they are working together in an unprecedented truce to deliver much-needed food to people under lockdown. They are using distribution networks usually used for drugs to get food parcels to hungry people. The country has seen a 75% decrease in violent crime since it imposed strict restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic, and normally dangerous streets in Cape Town now see sworn enemies meeting up to collect essential goods to distribute throughout hungry communities, says CBS News. “What we’re seeing happen here is literally a miracle,” Pastor Andie Steele-Smith is quoted as telling BBC News. Preston Jacobs, a member of the “Americans” gang, told CBS News’ Debora Patta it “feels nice” to take on a new role and communicate with those in need.
  • Banks are in talks with the government and regulators over a loan-guarantee program largely aimed at keeping small business running, says Richard Wainwright, chairman of the Banking Association South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has to balance restarting an already moribund economy with avoiding a surge in Covid-19 infections that the nation’s crippled public health-care system can ill afford, reports Bloomberg. “They’re going to have to select types of businesses and industries where it is practical to start lifting the lockdown restrictions,” it quotes Wainwright as saying. “But at the same time protecting people whether it is through social distancing or screening technology.” Banks are in talks with the government and regulators over a loan-guarantee program largely aimed at keeping small business running, Wainwright said. Banks would have to share some of the risk because the government doesn’t have the fiscal room, he said. Lenders can use their infrastructure to feed that stimulus into the economy. “We are far advanced in our discussions so we are hoping for a good outcome in the not-too-distant future,” Wainwright told Bloomberg.