SA to ease Covid-19 restrictions, lifts ban on cigarette sales; Trump to help SA; Dis-Chem gouging

By Jackie Cameron

  • President Donald Trump has pledged to help South Africa and Africa in its fight to stop the spread of coronavirus. That’s according to President Cyril Ramaphosa who said he spoke to Trump earlier. In a tweet, President Ramaphosa said: “I had a very productive call with His Excellency President @realDonaldTrump of the United States of America. We discussed the impact of #Covid19 on our two countries. I have passed our condolences to the Government and people of the US on the devastation the virus has wrought.
  • President Ramaphosa also gave South Africa a briefing on measures the country continues to undertake to contain the spread of the coronavirus. He says the number of deaths from Covid-19 has reached 75, with the World Health Organisation acknowledging South Africa’s efforts, which have been informed by medical evidence. But, in an effort to start getting the economy back on track while still managing the health risks, the government is ready to start easing restrictions from May, in a phased manner and in consultation with industry. The sale of cigarettes will be allowed, but entertainment venues, including bars and shebeens, will remain closed and sporting events will not be allowed. The rules will vary between provinces. For more on the Covid-19 pandemic, listen to Inside Covid-19, the daily BizNews podcast with Alec Hogg, who provides the latest insights and developments on the pandemic.
  • South Africans have dug deep to help shore up finances to rescue SA from the economic damage wreaked by Covid-19 containment measures. It’s not just billionaire families like the Ruperts, Oppenheimers and Motsepes who have made donations to Covid-19 rescue efforts. Some 75,000 individuals have contributed to the Solidarity Fund set up by the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus. So far, the fund has helped to pay for protection equipment and critical medical equipment for the medical sector, including 200 ventilators and it is expecting to deliver 250,000 food parcels soon (says Bloomberg).
  • South Africa’s R500bn Covid-19 rescue package worries investors. That’s according to Bloomberg, which points out that there’s just no let-up for the emerging world’s worst-performing debt. Investors aren’t buying the South African government’s assurance that it won’t significantly increase debt sales to fund a massive economic rescue package. Yields on government rand-denominated bonds have climbed more than 50 basis points since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the 500 billion rand ($26 billion) fiscal injection on Tuesday, says the news agency. To make matters worse, nobody is quite sure how South Africa’s exit from the FTSE World Government Bond Index — expected at the end of the month — will affect demand, it points out. South African bonds have lost 3.6% for dollar investors in April, the worst performance among 32 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg and bringing losses for the year to 31%. Developing-nation bonds on average have returned 0.8% this month.
  • Pharmaceutical group Dis-Chem has been referred to the Competition Tribunal after an investigation following complaints from consumers about its pricing of dust and surgical masks, the commission said on Thursday. An investigation by the Competition Commission has found that Dis-Chem has charged excessive prices on essential hygienic goods to the detriment of customers and consumers,” reports Reuters, adding that the competition body said the average price increases between February and March on the products ranged between 43% and 261%. The Dis-Chem share price reflected the negative news. It was in the top five losers on the JSE at the end of the trading day on Thursday, shedding about 4% of its value. And, looking at how other stocks performed on the JSE, gold mining companies Harmony and Gold Fields led shares upwards, each gaining not far off 18% by the end of the day. Gold Fields said in a statement that stronger gold prices were expected to boost earnings.