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Brakpan residents lament deteriorating state of ambulance services
8 July 2021, 10:07 PM

In the midst of a vicious third wave, Gauteng’s ambulance services are failing to reach critically ill patients.

A number of patients in Brakpan Old Location in Ekurhuleni have died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. The ward councillor in the area says the problem is not unique to Brakpan but affects the entire metro.

Brakpan community members say they wait for hours for an ambulance to arrive. They say three people died in a single week, after ambulances failed to arrive. The ward councillor puts the number of deaths at 10.

“I tried calling an ambulance when my neighbour was sick and when it took too long to arrive, I walked to the hospital. The hospital told me to return home because you cannot physically come to the hospital to fetch an ambulance. I ended up going to the police station and that is when the ambulance came,” alleges one community member.

“The problem started when mkhulu was sick. Two people have since died while waiting for an ambulance and more recently the gogo that stays down the road also died while waiting for an ambulance. There is another man who died and his body spent more than 24 hours while waiting for an undertaker,” adds another resident.

It’s alleged the delays started after emergency medical services were moved from local government to Gauteng health departments.
The move is said to have overwhelmed the province as many ambulances remain out of service due to a failure to renew operating licenses.

“This is not a situation that only the community of Brakpan is facing. It’s a situation where the Ekurhuleni at large is finding itself in. The ambulance services have deteriorated to the extent that some would say that it has basically collapsed and the community has started to put the blame on mayor Masina and his administration,” says DA ward councillor, Brandon Pretorious.

The Gauteng health department says it’s aware of the challenges and is looking to work with the private sector to resolve the problem.

Health MEC in the province says due to the pressures on the service brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will issue municipalities with temporary licenses to operate ambulances.

“So now we have also issued temporary licence to municipalities because of COVID of the city of Tshwane and the other city that has applied is the city of Ekurhuleni. Combined, we will be able to respond to our communities on time. I just wanted to clarify that. We are working o it and we are aware of that this is a challenge,” says MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi.

Mokgethi has blamed the delays on what she terms a referral system.

Haiti police say they have president’s suspected killers, still hunting mastermind
8 July 2021, 9:25 PM

Haiti’s police has killed or apprehended the suspected killers of President Jovenel Moise, officials said on Thursday, and are hunting for the masterminds behind the assassination that stunned the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Moise, 53, was shot dead early on Wednesday at his home by what officials said was a commando of apparently foreign, trained killers, pitching the poorest country in the Americas deeper into turmoil amidst political divisions, hunger, and widespread gang violence. Police Chief Leon Charles said in a televised briefing on Thursday that authorities had tracked down the suspected assassins to a house near the scene of the crime in Petionville, a northern suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince.

A fierce firefight lasted late into the night and six suspects were taken in custody, while three corpses were retrieved. Police were heavily patrolling the area from early on Thursday. “We have the physical authors, now we are looking for the intellectual authors,” Charles said.

James Solages, a US citizen of Haitian descent, is one of the six people arrested so far, reported the Washington Post, citing Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections and interparty relations. He told the paper that at least one other detainee is also believed to be a Haitian American. Officials in mostly French and Creole-speaking Haiti said on Wednesday that the assassins appeared to have spoken in English and Spanish.

A crowd of locals gathered on Thursday morning to watch the police operation unfold, with some setting fire to the suspects’ cars and to the house where they had bunkered down. Bullets were strewn in the street. “Burn them!”, shouted hundreds of locals gathered outside the police station where the suspects were being held. Charles said it was the local population that had helped police track down the suspects but he implored citizens not to take justice into their own hands.

Earlier on Thursday, locals brought two corpses of suspected assassins to the Petionville police station. A 15-day state of emergency was declared on Wednesday to help authorities apprehend the killers. But interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said on Thursday it was time for the economy to reopen and said he had given instructions for the airport to restart operations.

Officials have not given a motive for the killing so far. Since he took office in 2017, Moise had faced mass protests against his rule – first over corruption allegations and his management of the economy, then over his increasing grip on power.

Advocate Sipho Mantula on the assassination of Haiti’s Jovenel Moise:

Vacuum of power

Moise’s death has generated confusion about who is the legitimate leader of the country of 11 million people, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. That does not bode well in a nation that has struggled to achieve stability since the fall of the Duvalier dynastic dictatorship in 1986, grappling with a series of coups and foreign interventions.

“I can picture a scenario under which there are issues regarding to whom the armed forces and national police are loyal, in the case there are rival claims to being placeholder president of the country,” said Ryan Berg, an analyst with the Centre for Strategic & International Studies.

Haiti’s 1987 constitution stipulates the head of the supreme court should take over. But amendments that are not unanimously recognised state it be the prime minister, or, in the last year of a president’s mandate – like in the case of Moise – the parliament should elect a president. Adding further complications: the head of the supreme court died last month due to COVID-19 amid a surge in infections in one of the few countries worldwide to have yet to start a vaccination campaign. There is no sitting parliament as Haiti failed to hold legislative elections in late 2019 amid political unrest. And Moise had just this week appointed a new prime minister,

Ariel Henry, to take over from Joseph, although he had yet to be sworn in when the president was killed.

Joseph appeared on Wednesday to take charge of the situation, running the government response to the assassination, appealing to foreign governments for support, and declaring a state of emergency. Henry – who is considered more favorably by the opposition -told Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste that he did not consider Joseph the legitimate prime minister any more and he should revert to the role of foreign minister. “I think we need to speak. Claude was supposed to stay in the government I was going to have,” Henry was quoted as saying. The United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti on Thursday said Joseph would remain the leader until an election was held, urging all parties to set aside their differences.

A UN peacekeeping mission – meant to restore order after a rebellion toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004- ended in 2019 with the country still in disarray. “There are many unknowns about what happens next,” said Jake Johnston, a senior research associate at the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

“But it is important to remember that that was also the case before the assassination of Moise.”

Moise, backed by the international community, had been pushing to hold both elections and a constitutional referendum in September, efforts that were vehemently opposed by Haitian civil society, he pointed out. Civil society actors said elections under his one-man rule, amid so much gang violence, could not be free and fair, pushing instead for a transitional government, and denounced his constitutional reform as part of a power grab.

SA women’s water polo team hopes to make a strong showing at Olympics
8 July 2021, 7:15 PM

South Africa is sending a women’s water polo team to the Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan for the first time.  And two young players from Gqeberha will be flying the flag for the windy city.

Meghans Maartens and Ashleigh Vaughan took part in a national training camp in Durban two months ago, sharpening their skills before the big time. The South African Women’s water polo team is currently ranked number one on the African Continent.

South Africa will face off against Spain, the Netherlands and Australia in group A. The two youngsters from Gqeberha are primed to make their mark, assisting the team to get to the knock out stage. The preparations are done.

Vaughn is one of the 13 players who’ll be donning the green and gold. She believes her teammates will not be in group A just to make up the numbers in the Olympics despite Team SA sending a female team for the very first time.

“I was very cool when I saw my name pop out on the screen and I had to call somebody to send me a video to see who else made it,” she says.

Vaughan knows they will face the best players in the world. She says she has confidence in her and the team’s abilities.

“I am excited about travelling to such a tournament or event, I am more nervous because I know they only send the best to compete at the Olympics, it’s going to be very hard and it’s going to be hectic,” she adds.

Vaughn’s teammate and close friend Meghan Maartens says they had been training with intensity despite COVID-19 pandemic.  Maartens adds that they had been introduced to modern and innovative ways of training and that confidence and hope will get them through the finishing line.

She is also realising her big dream. “I know we are going to work very hard as a team despite everything we have gone through now with lockdown. I think the whole aim is to grow as team and learn support each other as first ever South African women’s water polo team,” Maartens explains.

Despite not training together due to level four lockdown regulations, the ladies’ team believes if they stick to their plan, nothing will stand on their way to success.

Maartens says representing their country on the prestigious event, is their key motivation.

“But training camp have very well, everybody motivates each other. We all have a common goal to grow women’s programme. It’s going well at the moment, it’s just the two of us down here, so we Durban or Johannesburg.”

First Black female head coach, 27-year-old, Delaine Mentoor, is the one who’ll be cracking the whip.

She has competed in the Junior World Championships in Greece as well as the Senior World Championships in Barcelona and Russia.  Her coaching career started when she went to university, now she is heading to the Olympics.

Mentoor says she wants to become an ambassador of the game by providing same equal opportunities.

“I am hopeful that my players play to their full potential. Potential is unending. The work they put in is far beyond. We have been working for a year and half. I hope it comes into play. I hope we are showing on the world stage. I hope that teams we play say that was tough,” she says.

SA’s women’s water polo head coach set to make history at Tokyo Olympic Games:

Mentoor says going to Tokyo as head coach, came as a surprise to her, but she is already looking towards Paris 2024. The Gqeberha-based coach believes water polo is growing on the African continent particularly towards females.

“I coached from a young age straight from high school. I coached provincially, my first year out of high school and I knew the next goal would be to coach nationally. I did want it. I never knew it will be at this bigger stage, the biggest stage not so soon,” she adds.

The trio are all based at the Nelson Mandela University. The university has been a feeder to the national team of the years, but going to the Olympics is the biggest achievement thus far.

The University’s Aquatics manager, Melinda Goosen, believes dedication and commitment gave the two ladies the upper hand.

“I think you know having to think about the Olympics itself, it’s the pinnacle of any sport person career and we are dealing our university deals with senior students that wants to achieve in essence ; there’s a part of you that hopes that they make it but realistic in a sense of really difficult only few in the country and in the world that ever makes that pinnacle,” she says.

Team South Africa will leave for Tokyo in a staggered way, with the first batch of athletes leaving on Monday.

Police arrest Carl Niehaus during a live interview with SABC News
8 July 2021, 5:15 PM

Suspended ANC member, Carl Niehaus, has been arrested outside the Estcourt Correctional Services Facility in KwaZulu-Natal where former president Jacob Zuma is being held.

Niehaus was arrested during a live television interview with SABC News.

Initial reports point to allegations of him having violated lockdown regulations.

Police take Niehaus away:

Niehaus was among a small group of pro-Zuma supporters who have gathered outside the facility.

His arrest comes a day after his ANC membership was suspended for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute.

Before his arrest this afternoon, Niehaus described as disappointing – the arrest and incarceration of former president Zuma.

Last week, the Constitutional Court found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in jail for flouting an order to obey summonses and testify at the State Capture Inquiry.

He was arrested and jailed last night at the Estcourt Correctional Services Facility in KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma will be eligible for parole after serving three months and three weeks of his sentence.

Niehaus says he believes Zuma’s rights have been trampled on.

“We are very upset and angry. This is an injustice that has been perpetrated against Zuma. I know there are some people who say that this was a victory for equality before the law, it is not. The manner in which his legitimate constitutional rights have been trampled on has led to a situation where he has now been imprisoned,” he says.


Higher food prices help fuel 40% jump in global hunger: UN agency
8 July 2021, 3:51 PM

Acute food insecurity has soared 40% this year as recent food price hikes have exacerbated existing pressures from conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said.

Defined as any lack of food that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, acute food insecurity is impacting, or is at high risk of impacting, a record 270 million people this year, the UN agency said. “High food prices are hunger’s new best friend,” said WFP Chief Economist Arif Husain.

“We already have conflict, climate and COVID-19 working together. Now food prices have joined the deadly trio,” he added. The WFP said average wheat flour prices in Lebanon have risen 219% year-on-year amid accelerating economic turmoil, while cooking oil prices have soared 440% versus a year ago in war-devastated Syria.

On internationally traded markets, world food prices were up33.9% year-on-year in June, according to the UN food agency’s price index, which measures a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar. However, they did fall in June versus May, the first such decrease in 12 months. After declining for several decades, world hunger has been on the rise since 2016.

The WFP, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, says around 690 million people or 9% of the world’s population go to bed hungry each night. It is targeting 139 million people for assistance this year, the biggest operation in its history.

Discussion on COVID-19 impact in addressing poverty, hunger:



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