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CORONAVIRUS: Your daily update
29 July 2021, 5:50 AM
South Africa has recorded 17 351 new cases of the coronavirus, pushing the total number of infections to 2 408 525.

The country recorded a further 520 COVID-19-related deaths, taking the total fatalities to 70 908.

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Court dismisses Mkhwebane’s bid to declare Chapter 9 impeachment rules unconstitutional, but says they should be amended
28 July 2021, 10:00 PM

The Western Cape High Court has dismissed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s application to declare Chapter 9 impeachment rules unconstitutional.

The court has, however, ruled that the rules should be amended to allow her legal representative to participate in the Section 194 committee hearings. It has also found that the appointment of a judge to the panel of experts that advises the National Assembly Speaker on whether there is prima facie evidence against a head of a chapter nine institution, offends the principle of separation of powers.

Mkhwebane has welcomed the ruling and called on parliament to halt the investigation into whether she is fit to hold office.

“The present process has to be halted with immediate effect. To continue on the basis of the old un-amended and partly unconstitutional rules as if nothing has happened would constitute an attack on the authority of the courts rule of law in the constitutional rights of the Public Protector. A call is accordingly made to the National assembly to do the right thing and allow for the inevitable process of amending the rules before their lawful implementation,” says Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe.

Parliament has welcomed the dismissal of the public protector’s application.

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise says, however, she will seek legal advice on how to proceed with the investigation into whether Mkhwebane is fit to hold office.

“Parliament is currently consulting its legal team who are still studying the judgment fully and will make a determination on the implication of this judgment on the independence and the manner in which it determines its internal processes. So the manner in which the section 194 committee will proceed will be based on this legal advice,” says parliament’s spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo.

Mkhwebane has been under fire for years now with some quarters questioning her competency for the job.

She, however, maintains she is the right woman for the job amid an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

A report into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office expected to be finalised in 2021:

OPINION | Malema’s larger than life personality is a threat to EFF’s longevity
27 July 2021, 10:07 PM

Proponents of democracy, believing in the central claim that strong opposition parties lead to a strong and healthy democracy, might see the expulsion of Julius Malema from the African National Congress and Cyril Ramaphosa’s subsequent rejection of his appeal at the ANC’s 53rd Elective Congress in Mangaung in 2012 as a blessing in disguise.

On July 26, 2013 – the anniversary of the July 26 Movement that sparked the Cuban revolution – Malema and other disgruntled ANC Youth League leaders went on to establish the Economic Freedom Fighters.

While many believed that the red berets didn’t have what it takes to establish themselves as a key role-player in South African politics, positing that the hype around the party’s formation will eventually wear off and disperse, the fighters replaced the Congress of the People (COPE) – another ANC breakaway – as the third biggest party in South Africa.

And unlike COPE, who had a strong showing at their first elections only to shrink almost to non-existent in the next, they increased their National Assembly seats from 25 in the 2014 general elections to 40 in 2019; playing a key role in a number of metros, effectively the face of land expropriation and dubbed the voice of the downtrodden. The party has established itself as a radical leftist organisation and has been uncompromising in their dedication to the struggle of Black people and confronting racism.

There’s no denying that the last eight years have been a success for the EFF and the party has shaken the political landscape of the country. As I was watching Julius Malema deliver the party’s keynote address on the occasion of their 8th anniversary, along the lines, he said: “I can sleep at night knowing very well that I have empowered Black Africans with the weapon (EFF) that they will use…” And because of that, the EFF’s biggest challenge, I believe, is sustainability – through combating politics of personality cult to ensure that the party does not suffer the same fate as the Inkatha Freedom Party, United Democratic Movement, National Freedom Party, and COPE.

What all these parties have in common is that their leaders became bigger than the party – placing a firm grip and creating an environment where it has been very hard for leaders of these parties to recognise that anyone else could have any equivalent right to lead the parties, conferring a virtually permanent claim to the throne.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s IFP did fairly well. At some point, the party was governing the KwaZulu-Natal province, Bantu Holomisa’s UDM was the official opposition in the Eastern Cape and the NFP – a breakaway of the IFP for reasons I’ve cited above, started off well in 2014 but health issues of the leader, Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi affected the party’s administration to an extent that it failed to contest the 2016 local government elections in addition to having parallel conferences

That is the challenge of the EFF. Julius Malema is currently into his second term as party leader and will probably vie for a third as the party’s constitution does not prohibit it – members of the party love him, the CIC as he is affectionately called. His larger than life personality, however, poses a threat to the longevity of the party. It is easy for Malema to assume that the popular support derived from party members and supporters conveys a permanent and unconditional attachment to party power.

It is the contention of this article that in order for the party to safeguard its sustainability, Julius Malema must consider handing over the reins to Floyd Shivambu, his deputy of the last eight years at the next People’s Assembly – their Elective Conference. Malema should, however, remain an active member of the party.

Creating an environment where party members, supporters and general South Africans believe not in Julius Malema but the EFF and its ideologies is important. Julius Malema being the leader for too long will stifle the party that has the potential to grow beyond what it already is.

That’s what sets the ANC and Democratic Alliance from the rest of the pack: internal democracy, dissenting views, contestations, debates. Cyril Ramaphosa can never lay claim to the ANC, neither can John Steenhuisen on the DA. The ANC and the DA will be there long after their respective leaders have left office. Can we say the same about the EFF? That’s the trick question.

“Even if I die or go to prison, other [EFF] leaders will lead you,” said Julius Malema addressing party supporters at the party’s manifesto launch for the 2014 General Elections. Six years ago, that would’ve been seen as another firebrand Juju statement. Today, however, it seems as though other leaders will actually lead when he dies or go to prison.

During an interview with Al Jazeera in 2016 he said: “I am not in this thing for myself” on whether he has ambitions of being President one day. But it’s difficult to believe that considering that he can’t differentiate between himself and the party – it seems to be a personal affair of some kind and clouds any democratic processes, if any.

For now, I’ll join millions of South Africans in extending congratulatory messages to the Fighters on 8 years of existence. – Authored by Vusi Gumbi, a Masters candidate in Politics at the University of Johannesburg and the winner of One Day Leader Season 8.

OPINION | Recent looting and destruction show that crime, violence remain a disease in SA
27 July 2021, 4:50 PM

The issue of riots, crime, and violence in South Africa is a growing concern as it presents a significant obstacle to human rights and respect for the rule of law in the country. Where there is unrest and violence in the country it goes without saying that human rights violations are present, if not rife. The recent looting and destruction were unparalleled and must be condemned in the strongest terms. They, however, demonstrate that crime and violence remain a disease in our society that must be cured in order for the country to pursue the visions of a country united in diversity.

Social media platforms provide a powerful mechanism through which the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and robust public debate can be fostered. Conversely, social media has also enabled pathways for false, manipulated, or harmful information to be created, disseminated and amplified by various actors at a scale, speed, and reach never known before.

South Africa has indeed embraced social media in all its forms with 41.9% of the total population being social media users as of January 2021. There is no doubt that the level 4 lockdown under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 that prevents people from gathering in large numbers, placed even more impetus on the use of social media to  and/or disseminate information and bridge constraints to gathering.

Given the fundamental importance of freedom of expression to democracy and the enjoyment of all other human rights and freedoms, South African law affords particularly strong protection to expressions on matters of public interest. The right to freedom of expression enshrined in section 16(1) of the Constitution however does ‘not extend to’ certain forms of harmful expression listed in section 16(2) including the ‘advocacy of hatred …that constitutes incitement to cause harm’. This is further reinforced by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000 which prohibits in section 10 and 12 hate speech and the dissemination of information that unfairly discriminates respectively.

During the riots, some popular figures used social media to encourage violent responses from the public, amongst others.  Where popular figures instigate violence and crime through social media platforms, their actions pervert the incredible contribution that social media can potentially make towards connecting our society in a positive and productive fashion. It is unfortunate that those who have allegedly incited violence through social media also exploit people in vulnerable situations and affect a wide range of human rights, including economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. This has played out in the recent riots where the circumstances of the poor and unemployed have regrettably been exploited for political purposes.

In response, the Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed on 13 July that there are 10-12 people that the security cluster is scrutinising for incitement of violence in the current riots. The Democratic Alliance (DA) opened cases against members of the Zuma family, and the Economic Freedom Fighters for stroking public unrest through social media. Hopefully, justice will prevail in these matters and that perpetrators will be held accountable for violations of the Constitution.

The use of social media to incite violence therefore remains prohibited by our laws, and is both a human rights violation, and a criminal offense. The increase in social media usage has brought about the challenge of regulating expression that is hateful and harmful. For example, during the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC or Commission) 2017 National Investigative Hearing on Racism and Social Media in South Africa, it was found that reporting mechanisms of social media sites, such as Facebook are not informed by South Africa’s constitutional imperatives. Consequently, when requests by users are made to remove posts that could constitute hate speech, the social media managing entities may not view it as such.

The capability or appropriateness of online platforms acting as “speech police” in order to determine whether certain posts do indeed violate the Constitution remains a problem. However, with collaboration between social media companies and law enforcement authorities it is possible for forensic evidence to contribute to the prosecution of criminals.

In the interim however, a greater responsibility is thus placed on individual users to ensure that they use social media sites responsibly in a manner that does not contravene the Constitution or legislation. Noting this, the Commission has developed, and is in the process of finalising a social media charter. This Charter serves to reaffirm that constitutional rights are equally applicable in the digital world as they are in the real world.  The SAHRC hopes that the Charter will advance social cohesion and catalyse a society united in its diversity as envisaged in the Constitution.

In conclusion, the use of social media to fuel violent protest and lawlessness is problematic and violates our laws. Where such violations occur the public have several remedies available where cases against perpetrators can be opened, depending on the desired outcome, including the South African Police Services and the South African Human Rights Commission. Ultimately, it is vital that the respect for human rights and rule of law be protected.  Article by Commissioner André Gaum & Allan Tumbo

Experts say diabetics at risk of severe COVID-19, urges them not to delay seeking medical help
23 July 2021, 9:30 PM

Health experts are urging people living with diabetes, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, not to delay in getting medical help should they develop even just a mild form of breathing difficulty.

They say while diabetics are not at greater risk of contracting Covid-19, they are more at risk of developing severe disease or even death.

Scientists estimate that over 50% of South Africans who have diabetes are undiagnosed.

Healthcare specialists say one in four adults in South Africa over the age of 45 have diabetes, making it one of the most pressing health issues in the country. People living with diabetes who develop COVID19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital, more likely to need oxygen in intensive care, and are more likely to die from COVID-19.

But just why are diabetics more prone to severe disease?

“The Ace2 receptor that the virus uses to enter cells is more plentiful in people living with diabetes. People living with diabetes often have a more dysregulated immune response, putting them at risk of more severe infections and developing more severe inflammation. Something that is called a cytokine storm and people living with diabetes are often overweight or obese. They have hypertension and cardiovascular disease and are often older, all of which in their own right have been shown to be risk factors for more severe COVID-19,” says the head of the Groote Schuur Hospital’s endocrinology division, Professor Joel Dave.

A recent UCT study published on the association of diabetes and COVID-19 during the first wave of infections in the Western Cape
showed that of 66 000 people diagnosed with COVID-19, at least 9 000 were people living with diabetes.

“45% of all these people living with diabetes required admission to hospital and if you look at the mortality from COVID-19 during this period, almost 50% were people living diabetes. Interestingly, among the just over 9 000 of people living with diabetes that we diagnosed with COVID-19, about 1 000 were also newly-diagnosed with diabetes and it is thought that in most of them they had pre-existing diabetes,” explains Professor Dave.

People living with diabetes are urged to check their blood glucose regularly, stick to their medications and adhere to a healthy diet.

“High blood sugar has been shown to change some of the proteins in the body that protects us against severe infection in the lungs and that usually protects people against things like blood clots and so forth. And if blood glucose is high, you lose that protection and therefore it is postulated that this is part of the reason for people living with diabetes to have more severe COVID and also more severe rates of death compared to the background population,” says Stellenbosch University Endocrinologist and senior lecturer, Dr Ankia Coetzee.

COVID-19 vaccination is also strongly advised.

“The vaccine has been shown to be as effective in patients with diabetes. There’s no increased risk of adverse effects due to the fact that they have diabetes and it is probably one of the best things individuals with diabetes can do to prevent the severity of COVID-19,” adds Dr Coetzee.

Doctors say while it could be asymptomatic, classic signs of diabetes are increased thirst, frequent urination, especially at night, dizziness and blurred vision.

Tygerberg and Groote Schuur Hospitals are urging people with diabetes to seek immediate medical care if COVID-19 is suspected.

Diabetes at risk of severe COVID-19:

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