9,000 Covid-19 deaths; vaccine in 2021; alcohol ban; ANC ’embarrassed’ by corruption

By Jackie Cameron

  • The global death toll from Covid-19 has surpassed 700,000, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has reached 18.5m. Bill Gates, The Microsoft Corp. founder and philanthropist said in an interview that while the US leads in research, “we’ve only taken care of ourselves” in producing and procuring a vaccine”, reports Bloomberg. He’s encouraged Congress to consider adding $8bn to a relief bill currently being debated to help less-developed countries procure an eventual vaccine. Gates also said he believes a vaccine will likely be approved by the beginning of 2021, though that may be a “stop-gap” primarily available to wealthier nations. More effective vaccines, Gates said, may take longer to develop.
  • The World Health Organization is sending 43 specialists to South Africa, which has more than half a million confirmed cases and expects infections to peak near the end of August, says Bloomberg. South Africa has seen reduced hospital admissions in recent weeks, and its official virus death rate at 8,884 people is relatively low, though medical researchers have found a discrepancy between the country’s confirmed Covid-19 fatalities and the number of excess natural deaths.
  • South Africa’s ban on alcohol sales has put investment projects worth at least R12.8bn on hold, says Bloomberg. A day after Anheuser-Busch InBev SA unit South African Breweries said it has halted plans to spend R5bn on scheduled plant upgrades, glass manufacturer Consol Holdings said it is suspending building a R1.5bn production plant in the country. Heineken NV also confirmed Tuesday it has stopped work on a R6bn brewery. Wine and spirits maker Distell Group has stopped all discretionary spending and shelved R300m of South African capital projects because of the ban, it said in a statement. It’s also looking to sell two of its premium wine farms. The announcements are a blow to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to lure $100bn in new investment to the country by the end of 2023. His administration is facing increasingly vocal criticism over the ban on liquor sales, which the government says it introduced to curb hospital admissions while it fights the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The ANC says it is ‘embarrassed‘ by allegations of corruption. This follows a meeting in late July where the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) met to discuss corruption and plans for economic recovery. However, Magashule’s name has been mentioned a few times in connection with strange dealings. His sons, Tshepiso and Thato, were awarded government contracts for Covid-19 goods and services, and Magashule himself is at the heart of a Zondo commission inquiry. Join the conversation on corruption this Thursday (6 August) at Tim Modise’s noon free-to-air webinar. This week’s guests are the head of the country’s great hope in the fight against corruption: Special Investigating Unit head Advocate Andy Mothibi; Sipho Ngwema, the spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority; and Advocate Selby Makgotho of the Special Tribunal. Sign up details available on BizNews.com.
  • South African miner Gold Fields said on Wednesday booming gold prices could drive up half-year profits by more than 300%. Gold Fields has already said the Covid-19 pandemic would have a limited negative impact on its performance
  • The tobacco ban is the focus of another court battle, with critics arguing that the prohibition on cigarette sales is costing jobs and eroding tax revenues. Listen to this excerpt of an interview with Tax Justice SA’s Yusuf Abramjee. For more on that, listen to the full interview on BizNews Radio.