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Mixed reactions to school reopening plan
20 May 2020, 5:00 AM

There’s been a mixed bag of reactions to the Basic Education’s confirmation that grade 7 and 12 learners will be returning to school come June 1.

Equal Education has raised concern over the state of readiness of rural and township schools for the phased reopening of schools.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says school senior management teams have received materials like sanitisers and masks ahead of the phased reopening. Materials are also being stored at warehouses.

The Minister says the Department will be gazetting a revised school calendar before the end of May.

NGOs and teacher unions have called for the Department to ensure that learners are not at risk when they return to school.

“We have concerns or are cautious around the just-in-time delivery proposition that’s been put on the table by the Department of Basic Education. We’re worried that the Department of Basic Education or provincial departments especially the rural provinces may not be ready, in fact, to meet the standard operating procedures or protocols that have been put on the table by the Department of Basic Education,” says Equal Education’s Noncedo Madubedube.

Senior Researcher at the Stellenbosch University Dr Nic Spaull has welcomed the Minister’s address.

“What the Minister showed tonight was leadership in this difficult time. She said she’s listened to experts; listened to evidence. I found it to be humble, honest, reasonable and scientific. I think what she was saying was that we can’t hold up the whole country for a small number of schools that are not ready.”

Dr Spaull says research has shown that children rarely die from COVID-19.

“Children will catch this disease at school; some teachers will catch this disease and it’s not a matter of if they will but when. Not all but they are going to get infected and if we accept that now and we put precautions in place and that it’s a very small percentage of children that will get it.”

Motheo Brodie from Section 27 acknowledges that the Minister was faced with difficult choices.

He says they will consult further with the department.

Brodie, however, says they are concerned that most schools they have liaised with, especially in Limpopo, are not ready to reopen.

“There’s a few other things that the Minister didn’t speak to and that is concerning,” Brodie says.

Parents worried

Some parents in the sprawling township of Majwemasweu in Brandfort, in the Free State, have vowed to reject any plan by the Department of Basic Education to reopen primary schools.

Brandfort has been battling with chronic water shortages and parents say they fear that their children may contract the coronavirus.

“In terms of our children, it’s not safe at all. I really don’t think it’s a good idea for our children to go back to school it’s not safe for us. The water was an issue from the beginning in Brandfort it has always been an issue so children going back to school it’s clear an aspect that we can’t overlook it poses a danger,” says one parent.

Free State Human Rights Commission manager, Thabang Kheswa, has appealed to the Basic Education Department to ensure that the school environment is conducive for learning.

“Water is very important in the fight against COVID-19. We can’t have a school that is operating without adequate access to water for learners. As the South African Human Rights Commission we will be embarking on monitoring processes ensuring that the department is responsible ensuring there is water in all schools,” Kheswa says.

Free State Cooperative Governance MEC, Thembeni Nxangisa, says they will support the Education Department’s programme of ensuring there is sufficient water supply in schools.

“The Department of COGTA in the Free State is working closely and under the instruction of the premier has been providing in edition to areas where there is water shortage – Jojo tanks and trucks supplying water in all communities that need water. We have agreed that we must increase that programme even especially schools.”

Nxangisa is confident that municipalities would be equal to the task of ensuring that service delivery is not compromised at schools.

 

 

Northern Cape reports its first COVID-19 death as SA fatalities climb to 312
19 May 2020, 10:11 PM

The Northern Cape has reported its first COVID-19 death as South Africa’s coronavirus curve continues to climb.

312 lives have now been lost in the country due to the pandemic with 17 200 infections confirmed.

55.5% of those infected are males and the majority of the deceased are between the ages of 60 and 69.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has conveyed condolences to the families of the departed patients.

On Monday, he urged South Africans with underlying conditions and the elderly to be extremely cautious and avoid possible exposure to the virus.

Below is an infographic of the latest COVID-19 statistics in South Africa:

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John Block
COPE demands answers over claims that John Block is due for early prison release
19 May 2020, 9:33 PM

COPE is calling on Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola to confirm or deny claims that former ANC leader in the Northern Cape John Block could be among the 19 000 prisoners due to be released on parole. The planned releases are part of the Department’s efforts to fight COVID-19 by easing overcrowding in prisons.

“Coronavirus can’t be used as a reason to release people who have committed very serious corruption in society. There is a rumour doing the rounds that Mr John Block who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for corruption will also benefit from this mass release of 19 000 inmates. We want the Minister of Correctional Services Mr Ronald Lamola to either confirm or deny this rumour because it can’t happen that people who have done so much harm to society must be released on parole,” says COPE Spokesperson, Dennis Bloem.

Block, a former ANC Northern Cape Finance MEC, started serving his 15 year sentence for corruption in 2018 after the Constitutional Court rejected his attempt to appeal.

Early prison release

Lamola has said the relatively large number of prisoners infected with COVID-19 in East London and the Western Cape informed their decision to reduce the number of people in prisons.

He says the aim is to release inmates who do not pose serious health and safety risks. Lamola says inmates who will be released have undergone rehabilitation processes and are due to be placed on parole anyway.

He says the department is also looking at mechanisms to address the issue of awaiting trial detainees who have been granted bail but cannot afford to pay.

“The number of those that were supposed to be released within the 2 years or less is  14 393. Those are people that were supposed to be going in front of parole boards in this period, from today to 2 years. What we have done was just to request that we are allowed in terms of the Correctional Services Act in consultation with approval of the President to bring them for consideration of parole to the parole board,” he says.

President Cyril Ramaphosa approved the Justice Department’s request as it is in line with the United Nations’ call to governments to prevent foreseeable threats to public health as the world grapples with COVID-19.

22 South Africans remain stranded in Kenya as airline cancels flight
19 May 2020, 8:41 PM

A group of 22 South Africans who were to be repatriated from Kenya – as the world battles coronavirus – remain stranded in Nairobi.

This after SEMAIR, the airline that was to evacuate them, again, cancelled at the 11th hour.

The airline is alleged to have failed to inform passengers and the South African High Commission in Kenya.

The High Commission says it is in contact with the airline to provide accommodation for the 22 South Africans.

One of the passengers is Kevin Sellis. He says the airline has so far cancelled three times with very little information to those affected.

In the video below, South Africans living abroad share their COVID-19 experiences:

The commercial airliner was scheduled to leave Nairobi on Tuesday afternoon, with stopovers in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Africa would have been the latest country to evacuate its citizens from Kenya following the same move by others, including Britain and the US.

Although Kenya has less than 1 000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, it has put in place stringent measures to contain the spread of the disease, including halting all international flights.

And, over the weekend, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the extension of the dawn to dusk curfew.

“We were hoping that the relatively small number in Kenya, life would go back to normal,” says Acting SA High Commissioner, Thembela Ngculu.

The COVID-19 outbreak, which led to many countries closing their borders and instituting lockdowns, has left many citizens stranded across the globe.

To date, the South African government has facilitated the return of more than 600 citizens who had been stuck abroad.

Jiba to face prosecution: AfriForum
19 May 2020, 8:09 PM

AfriForum’s Private Prosecutions Unit says former Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, will face prosecution.

The unit says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has informed it in writing about the intention to put Jiba on trial.

In a statement, AfriForum says the about-turn came after advocate Gerrie Nel threatened the NPA with a supervisory court order in November 2019 to take a decision on the prosecution of Jiba.

Earlier, Nel said he would be prosecuting Jiba for fraud and perjury on behalf of then General Johan Booysen, the former Head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal.

The NPA could not be reached for comment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa fired Jiba from the NPA in April 2019 after an inquiry found her unfit to remain in her job.

The decision was upheld by the National Assembly in December the same year.

Jiba was found to have failed to uphold the NPA Act, thus bringing the prosecuting authority into disrepute.

A prosecutorial overreach in instituting racketeering charges against Booysen was at the centre of the damning findings against Jiba.

Booysen had been accused of being involved in the Cato Manor death squad, its alleged existence has also been a subject of public debate and controversy.

In the video below, Booysen dispels existence of Cato Manor death squad:

 

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