Flash Briefing: Land grab laws will be passed this year, CR tells ANC; global investor optimism; Bitcoin

By Jackie Cameron 

  • Land grabs in SA are back on the table, with ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa telling ANC members he expects parliament to approve an amendment to the constitution this year outlining the circumstances in which land may be expropriated without compensation. The ANC adopted expropriation of land without compensation as a policy in 2017 to address racially skewed ownership patterns dating back to colonialism and white-minority rule, notes Bloomberg. It’s seen by Ramaphosa’s foes within the party as a test of his resolve to push through decisions unpopular with the business community. But it’s also a policy that, in Zimbabwe, is largely blamed for the collapse of its economy. The amendment will “contribute to the acceleration of land reform,” Ramaphosa said in a televised speech marking the 109th anniversary of the founding of the ANC. “The redistribution of land will be done in a manner that promotes economic growth and sustains food security.” Constitutional amendments require the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers, a margin the ruling party lacks, notes Bloomberg.
  • President Ramaphosa has also repeated calls for officials accused of corruption to step down, in line with another resolution taken by the party in 2017. His comments came after the party’s integrity body last month recommended that ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule – a key rival of the president – step aside or be suspended after being accused of crimes including fraud and money laundering. Steps are being taken to strengthen the effectiveness of ANC Integrity Commission in dealing with party members who are accused of wrongdoing, Ramaphosa said. “Members who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures, will be summarily suspended,” he said.
  • Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Mr Obed Bapela has tested positive for Covid-19 and Deputy Minister Boitumelo Moloi hospitalised for Covid-19 as the number of people who have died of Covid-19 reaches 33,000 and the number of cases reported by the government exceeds 1.2m. Just under 2m have died globally, and governments have collectively reported nearly 90m cases of the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre. Meanwhile, South African scientists are testing whether vaccines will be less effective against a South African variant of Covid-19. For more on that, listen to the BizNews interview with leading SA vaccinologist, Professor Shabir Madhi (access Inside Covid-19 podcast here).
  • Apple and Amazon.com have suspended Parler from their respective App Store and web hosting service, saying the social networking service popular with many right-leaning social media users has not taken adequate measures to prevent the spread of posts inciting violence. The action by Apple and Amazon follows a similar move by Alphabet Inc’s Google on Friday. Parler is favoured by many supporters of US President Donald Trump, who was permanently suspended from Twitter on Friday, and it is seen as a haven for people expelled from Twitter. Apple and Amazon are in the BizNews share portfolio.
  • Investors are showing signs of increasing exuberance, reflecting optimism about a vaccine-fuelled global recovery and the changed economics of the post-coronavirus world. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.6% for the first week of 2021, marking its fourth-straight weekly gain despite a mob storming the US Capitol Wednesday and a decline in nonfarm payrolls reported Friday. Businesses at the centre of the economy, such as banks and energy firms, are often among the earliest beneficiaries of an economic upturn. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are among the winners so far this year. Electric-car maker Tesla, a presumed beneficiary of green-energy-related stimulus efforts favoured by the Democrats who now control Congress, is up 25% this year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is worth more than Exxon, thanks to the rally.
  • Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that made its debut more than a decade ago as an alternative to fiat currencies distributed by governments and central banks, has risen 38% in 2021 to $40,132, more than doubling the high it set three years ago, for more on global markets, log on to BizNews premium – which offers full access to the Wall Street Journal as one of the many benefits for subscribers.
  • Germany will publish its first reading for 2020 GDP on Thursday, with analysts predicting Europe’s biggest economy contracted 5.2%, the most since the 2009 financial crisis. In the UK, GDP data for November will give an initial glimpse of the economic damage inflicted by a renewed lockdown that imposed that month to contain the coronavirus. Economists predict a sharp drop of 4.8%, the first contraction in seven months.
  • At the end of the trading week, Johannesburg stocks advanced for the fifth consecutive day, recording record highs, with Sasol among the gainers rising about 4.5% after oil prices surged. Gold shares fell by about 3% after the bullion price weekend.

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