Flash Briefing: Ace suspended, Zuma could be next – ANC; Sars vows to nail ANC for PAYE tax dodge; new Covid strains sweep Africa

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  • The ANC’s deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, has begun drafting letters to ANC members whose membership is being revoked, reports Bloomberg. This includes Bongani Bongo, a former cabinet minister, who – along with Ace Magashule – is facing prosecution for graft. Magashule has officially been suspended – albeit temporarily – and is reportedly not allowed to make any public announcements. According to Bloomberg, former President Jacob Zuma may also be receiving a letter of suspension.
  • South African Revenue Service commissioner Edward Kieswetter has promised zero tolerance against tax-dodgers, telling Parliament on Wednesday that the revenue service would act without fear or favour against any individual or entity that did not meet their tax obligations. That’s according to Gaye Davis of Eyewitness News. It’s been reported that the ANC has failed to pay over to Sars millions of rands in pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax collected from employees and that Sars has seized some of the money allocated to the ruling party by the Independent Electoral Commission as part payment of its debt. The ANC is currently struggling to pay staff salaries.
  • In good news for medical aid members, the government has proposed new rules to curb steep co-payments. The Registrar of Medical Schemes has gazetted a notice, indicating that these co-payments will be limited in coming months. In addition, medical schemes must prove they are fair, equitable and cost effective in selecting preferred providers. New guidelines will be published soon.
  • Bloomberg reports that new coronavirus variants have proliferated across southern and eastern Africa, exacerbating the challenge of bringing the pandemic under control, analysis of the genomics data shows. A strain first detected in South Africa late last year is “completely dominating all infection in southern Africa and seems to be entering East Africa,” said Tulio de Oliveira, director of KRISP, a genomics institute in the port city of Durban, which is leading a group that’s evaluating the data. “Another variant is completely dominating infections in Uganda and Rwanda, and is spreading through truck routes.” Africa is the world’s least-vaccinated continent, with many countries’ inoculation programs dependent on Covax – a global initiative that aims to ensure there is equitable access to the shots. The spread of variants has raised alarm because some of them appear to be more transmissible than the original virus and may be resistant to some inoculations. The longer populations go unvaccinated, the higher the risk that mutations will occur. KRISP is working with authorities in more than 40 African countries to collect and analyse all available data so the prevalence of the South African strain and others identified in Nigeria and in travellers from Tanzania can be assessed. Two separate strains have been identified in Nigeria, one of which has spread to more than 50 other countries, the KRISP director said. Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has urged the government to halt flights from India where there is a shortage of oxygen to treat people with Covid-19 in hospitals. In the UK, the National Health Service is getting ready to roll out booster jabs from September – which would be the third vaccine of the year to fight Covid-19.
  • MTN is making progress toward separating the company’s financial-technology business and dispose of South African towers as the continent’s largest wireless carrier works on slimming down, says Bloomberg. A plan to spin off the lucrative fintech unit, which includes mobile money, should be finalised by the end of March 2022, Johannesburg-based MTN said in a statement on Wednesday. A sale and leaseback of domestic telecom masts is slated for the third quarter of this year after more than 20 responses from interested parties, the company said.
  • Donald Trump’s Facebook ban has been upheld by an oversight board, says BizNews Premium partner The Wall Street Journal. The decision, which is binding, largely ratifies a choice personally approved by Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in the wake of the Jan. 6 US Capitol riot and could have far-reaching implications for how technology companies police political speech.

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