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WHO warns against reopening schools during COVID-19 peak
14 July 2020, 4:54 PM

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the coronavirus are on the rise.

The call comes at the time when South Africa has introduced a gradual reopening of schools amid a spike in the infection rate.  The United States, Zimbabwe, France and many other countries are also preparing for the reopening of schools.

Schooling has resumed in various parts of the world as countries lift their movement restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But some schools were soon shut down after learners and teachers tested positive. In South Africa, the Education Department took the decision to have a phased resumption of the academic year. However, some schools in the townships and rural areas lack even the basics such as running water and suitable ablution facilities.

The country currently has more than 4 000 COVID-19 related deaths.

World Health Organisation’s Health Emergency Programme Executive Director Mike Ryan saying the best time to reopen schools is during low community transmission.

In the video below, Dr Ryan elaborates on his call:

But, South Africa’s Health Minister has defended the country’s decision to reopen schools.

Dr Zweli Mkhize says it wasn’t taken lightly. Mkhize says communities have to learn to co-exist with the virus and scientists, doctors and pediatricians were part of the decision.

“We asked them to give us advice, what do we do with the schools? They’ve said no we can open the schools and of course there are these protocols that were put in place. While we understand what the WHO has said, our approach to the schools is based also on some of the precautionary measures that need to be taken as you go into the schools. It is because we know we are going to be co-existing with the virus for the rest of the year and up until next year, so we need to begin to adjust to that kind of life with the virus.”

WHO’s chief, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, agrees that the challenge of the pandemic is far from over.

More than thirteen million people have been infected with the virus while more than half a million have died globally.

 

 

 

SAA rescue plan gets the thumbs up, Philip Saunders appointed interim CEO
14 July 2020, 3:19 PM

South African Airways (SAA) as we know it will no longer exist. The SAA Business Rescue plan was adopted with 86% of the creditor’s voting in favour of the amended plan.

Government also welcomed the vote in favour and applauded creditors and stakeholders for realising that a new, restructured, competitive airline, is the best option to immediately take the airline back to the skies.  In terms of the Companies Act, the proposed rescue plan may be implemented subject to funding being obtained.

The Department of Public Enterprise has also undertaken to provide proof of funding for the plan to go ahead as required by the Companies Act.

The Department of Public Enterprise says they will appoint a new interim board in the coming weeks with its current acting COO Philip Saunders acting as the new interim Chief Executive.

“We have received proxy’s and 86% are in favour of the business rescue plan of SAA. In the vote, in terms of the Act, the business plan will be approved on a preliminary basis if it is supported by the holders of more than 75 percent of the creditor voting interest and in this case and the second part the votes in support of the proposed plans included at least 50% of the independent creditors voting interest. The non-independent interest if less than a percent,” says Siviwe Dongwana, one of the joint Business Rescue Practitioners.

Acting Director-General at the Department of Public Enterprises Kgathatso Tlhakudi earlier urged creditors to vote in favour of the plan. He said it was in the best interest for government to support the restructuring of the airline. He says the new airline will be an attractive asset for an equity partner.

“The old way of contracting for labour and services will be departed, proactivity and efficiency will guide the performance of the management system of the airline going forward. The SAA that will emerge from restructuring is going to be assets. We have also started a process of getting a transaction advisor in place to pair up the engagements that we have been having as government with prospective strategic equity partners.”

In the video below, unions happy for securing jobs for more workers at SAA:

Last week, government and six major labour unions reached an agreement regarding retrenchments at SAA.  All unions except those representing pilots had accepted the new Voluntary Severance Package deal.

About 2 700 employees will lose their jobs. However, the retrenchment packages will be supported by a social and skills development plan through SETA for those who will lose their jobs.

“We have reached a point of saving the airline. It is no longer about just saving it here and there but it is about saving the airline. We are all avoiding liquidation. We know that what caused the airline to come to its knees was poor governance, corruption, looting and now that must be changed. We are ready to engage and start afresh,” says  National Transport Movement (NTM) President, Mashudu Raphetha.

The new plan will also mean that employees will also get preference when a position becomes available in a new, restructured national airline that must emerge from the rescue process- provided they have the required skills and competence.  The severance package for employees includes one-week pay calculated per year of completed service, one-month notice pay, accumulated leave paid out and a 13th cheque.

Government will need additional R16 billion to fund the airline’s rescue plan.

 

Consumers in Northern Cape urged not to buy expired products
13 July 2020, 9:51 PM

National Consumer Protection authorities in the Northern Cape have cautioned consumers against buying expired products. A grocery store in Kimberley was caught selling expired products to its customers. Some bear expiry dates from as far back as three years.

Sauces, biscuits and canned food are some of the products in the store. A bottle of tomato sauce was packaged in 2015 and expired in 2018. The owners say consumers go into their shop knowing what to expect. But the Consumer Protection Council warns consumers not to buy food that has expired.

“We would urge the client not to buy products that are near its sell-by or expiry date. Secondly, if a client finds that the good has expired or it’s not of a sale quality, were first requested the clients to go back to the supplier and ask for a refund or a replacement of that good,” says the Consumer Council’s Alecia Pietersen- Hendricks.

Some consumers like Mosata David say they are taking advantage of the slashed prices, especially on non-edible products.

“I don’t just buy anything but when it comes to things that you can use in the house like sunlight and all other stuff, I buy it.”

However, others say, the goods are harmful to consumers’ health, and shops selling them must be shut down.

“I think these people want to make us sick. My thought is that this shop must be closed,” says one consumer.

Another adds: “It’s wrong to sell people old products. I am also of the view that this shop must be closed.”

Health inspectors will soon visit the shop to assess its compliance.

In the video below, expired food seized from foreign-owned shops in Ekurhuleni:

Former First Lady Marike de Klerk’s killer wants pardon
13 July 2020, 9:27 PM

The killer of former First Lady, Marike de Klerk, claims he is being overlooked for parole as the former President’s family is not interested in meeting with him.

The victim-offender dialogue or VOD is part of the requirements for parole.

Luyanda Mboniswa, who was 21 at the time, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2001 killing. He is serving a life sentence for the murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances and has now been in jail for 18 years.

He broke into the former First Lady’s beachfront apartment at Dolphin Beach in Tableview. Mboniswa had been working as a security guard at the premises. The then 64-year-old Mrs de Klerk was stabbed and throttled.

Mboniswa says he has twice applied for parole, but feels the report of the victim-offender dialogue is holding him back. Chairperson of the National Council for Correctional Services, Judge Siraj Desai, says parole is not a right, but a privilege.

“What I do know about this offender, he was dealt with previously by my predecessor. He’s scheduled to be heard by us during the course of this year, we will apply our minds to it and we will make a recommendation, but a final decision is not made by us. That recommendation is referred to the minister who makes the final decision.”

Desai says Mboniswa’s name is on the list for the next National Council meeting, which will be scheduled for later this year. He’s currently doing time at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre near Paarl.

Regional Commissioner for Correctional Services in the Western Cape, Delekile Class, says while the dialogue with the family is necessary, it is not the only criteria for parole.

“The department did meet with the son of Mrs Marike de Klerk, I think it’s Willem de Klerk in October last year. He indicated that he would prefer that we talk to his legal representative and declined to participate in victim-offender dialogue, however, because the offender was due to appear his profile was done and has undergone all necessary programmes that he should have undergone,” he says.

Mboniswa stole a wristwatch, a cellphone and two torches. The former First Lady had lost her right to state protection following her divorce from former President FW de Klerk in 1998, after 39 years of marriage. The De Klerk Foundation has been approached for comment but is yet to respond.

Lindiwe Zulu
Government to ramp up efforts at poverty hotspots
13 July 2020, 9:01 PM

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says her department has pinpointed the poverty hotspots in the country and will work with NGOs to assist communities in need as the country battles the coronavirus. Zulu was addressing the media in Pretoria.

She says the R350 Special COVID-19 relief grant will include payments to asylum seekers. In June, the High Court in Pretoria ordered government to include asylum seekers and special permit holders from Angola, Lesotho and Zimbabwe as recipients of the grant.

Stricter regulations have also now been put in place – including the return on the ban of alcohol sales and an evening curfew – from 9pm to 4am.

Minister Zulu says South Africans should come together to work in a sustainable way to ensure that the food is provided for all South Africans.

“Hunger is hunger, we are informed by Stats SA and of course money is not enough for anyone but it is always a negotiation and the bottom line is that for us as the department is the issue of hunger. We need to respond in the same way we have responded to COVID-19. Those people in poor communities they want to improve their situations, they just need us to help them.”

 Payments

Social Security Agency CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula says R1 billion was paid to applicants who applied for the R350 COVID-19 social grant in May. This comes as many unemployed South Africans say they’ve have been wrongly declined the grant, despite meeting the criteria.

The grant forms part of the government’s COVID-19 relief package aimed specifically at assisting citizens who do not have any form of income. Memela- Khambula says people who are without any source of income – and who applied for the grant – should check the SASSA website or use other methods to contact them.

“Anybody who has not received any response the important thing is to either to go to our website and check your status. The other way is to go to the WhatsApp line and once you’ve typed the number 082 046 8553 it will give you two lines then check your status you’ll be able to see whether your application is pending, approved or declined,” she says.

Earlier in July, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) said some of the R350 COVID-19 social relief grant applicants were likely to get their payments soon.

The agency said after reviewing some of the declined cases, they found that up to 85% of those, who were initially rejected because they had received or qualified for the Unemployment Insurance Fund,  actually qualify.

More than 3 million South Africans have applied for the special grant.

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