We have just completed two weeks under alert level 4 lockdown. Although it seems that the countrywide infection rate has peaked, President Ramaphosa has extended the restrictions for a further two weeks to ensure that we quickly flatten the curve associated to the third wave. Extended constraints pose some downside risk to Q3 GDP activity, with a potential negative spillover to sentiment. Although there has been some positive developments in our political landscape the recent unrests could cause some further upsets, adding to the fragile health environment.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated four variants as Variants of Concern (VoC): Alpha (B.1.1.7, first documented in the UK in September 2020), Beta (B.1.351, first documented in South Africa in May 2020), Gamma (P.1m, first documented in Brazil in November 2020), and Delta (B.1.617.2, first documented in India in October 2020). The Delta variant has rapidly replaced the Beta variant to drive the third wave of Covid-19 infections. The Delta variant has also spread globally, being the dominant variant in the UK and accounting for half of the new infections in the US.
There are also Variants of Interest (VoI), which are less prevalent than VoC but still show significant community transmission in multiple clusters across multiple countries. These are Eta (B.1.525, first documented in December 2020 in multiple countries), Iota (B.1.526, first documented in the US in November 2020), Kappa (B.1.617.1, first documented in India in October 2020), and Lambda (C.37, first documented in Peru in December 2020). While this may be Greek to some, the good news is that the local vaccine rollout is gaining momentum with registrations for over 50s having opened from 1 July and for the 35 – 49 cohort set to open from 15 July.
Closer to home focus has not been on VoI but rather on PoI – persons of interest. Last week, the Johannesburg High Court rejected Ace Magashule’s bid to have his suspension as ANC Secretary General declared invalid. More importantly, the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed former President Jacob Zuma’s application to stay his arrest. This comes after the Constitutional Court found Zuma guilty of contempt of court, sentencing him to a 15-month jail sentence.
Since the 29 June 2021 ruling, the strength of the judiciary – a much-lauded anchor of South Africa’s institutional strength – was on a knife’s edge. However, the events over the past two weeks have served to enhance the rule of the law and the strength of the country’s constitution.
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