SA coronavirus lockdown; Cosatu wants payment holidays; Sasol plans; Petrol bonanza

By Linda van Tilburg

  • The government has announced strict measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. It comes as the official figure of positive cases rose to 61. The measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa include travel bans on foreign nationals from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the US, UK and China from the 18th of March. A ban on travelling to these countries and other nations in the European Union comes into effect immediately. 35 of South Africa’s land ports will be shut down today and two of the seaports will be closed for passengers and crew changes. Gatherings of more than 100 people will be prohibited, and all mass gatherings will be cancelled. Schools will be closed from Wednesday until after the Easter weekend. Mr Ramaphosa said the government will soon announce fiscal and other measures to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus on the economy.
  • Cosatu has called on the private sector to help to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Mathew Coggs, Cosatu’s parliamentary coordinator said both the Reserve bank and commercial banks should consider reducing interest rates and there should be payment holidays for homes and car loans. Coggs told the SABC there should be free testing for the virus. These issues will be discussed at the Nedlac meeting that is taking place today with both the government and the private sector. Cosatu said these were unusual circumstances and they wanted the Government and private sector to take bold actions.
  • Sasol will hold a call with investors tomorrow to explain the measures it’s proposing after its share price slumped 68% in the past week, sending its market value to R31.8bn, a fraction of the R411bn high in 2014. The company is expected to give details on how it proposes to raise cash. Sasol was already struggling to keep up with repayments on R162bn debt because of a botched US chemical project, when it was blindsided last week by a plunge in oil prices. Its shares tumbled to the lowest in two decades and the covenants on its loans are under threat, but there was a major correction on Friday, when Sasol shares closed 36.65% higher.
  • The Rand weakness and oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia is expected to lead to a fuel prize bonanza for South African consumers with large reductions in fuel prices expected at the end of this month. The Automobile Association said reduction could be 86 cents a litre for petrol and 85 cents a litre for diesel after levies. The oil price plunged from above $50 to around $35 last week. The AA said the last time oil dropped to this level was during the Gulf War 30 years ago. The Association said there could be more declines.