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UN urges Zimbabwe to ensure protection of human rights
6 August 2020, 7:50 AM

The United Nations Chief has urged Zimbabwe’s government to ensure the protection of all fundamental human rights. A Spokesperson indicated that Secretary General Antonio Guterres was following developments in the country with concern.

The statement called for the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association to be respected in accordance with Zimbabwe’s human rights obligations.

Guterres also called on all political actors and civil society to resolve issues peacefully through inclusive dialogue.

The call comes amid public outcry over alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, with ongoing clampdown by security forces.

In a bid to stem the negative publicity, Harare is reportedly working on criminalising protests aimed at expressing dissatisfaction at the government. Legislation is being drawn up to make it illegal to campaign against the state.

This comes after activists, opposition politicians and even journalists were arrested for participating in an anti-corruption movement last month. The new laws also aim to limit freedom of speech in traditional and social media.

Government’s response to the calls for reform, justice and accountability has been criticised internationally but African leaders have remained silent on the matter.

Below, Zimbabwe’s acting Information Minister urges fellow countrymen to defend their country:

Cigarette sales ban legal battle continues on Thursday
6 August 2020, 6:36 AM

The case involving British American Tobacco South Africa’s (BATSA) challenge to the tobacco sales ban by government continues in the High Court in Cape Town today.

Yesterday, BATSA said COGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma had infringed on the rights of consumers, farmers and others in the value chain of the tobacco industry by implementing a ban on tobacco. The ban was imposed in March this year amid the lockdown.

BATSA says Dlamini- Zuma’s argument, which they say states that a ban on tobacco will help make more hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, is not based on any scientific evidence. South Africa is currently the only country in the world that has a tobacco ban in place amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The lead attorney representing BATSA, Michael Evans, says the ban is having an extremely negative impact on the country’s economy..

“All she is done is free up 16 ICU beds at any given point in time. That’s all that she has achieved through this ban. Against that, she is completely destroying the entire tobacco trade from farming all the way down, she’s affecting the rights of consumers, she’s cost the fiscus R4 billion in excise duty and this is the impact of the ban. Besides which it has been a huge boost to the illicit trade and that’s another impact of the ban.”

A smoker who is one of the applicants in the urgent application says smoking helps her cope with stressful situations. Melinda Ferguson, who is a former drug addict, says smoking helps people stay away from hard drugs. She says smoking also helps people focus on staying sober.

“I’ve had huge problems with heroin and crack in my life. I’m 20 years clean and sober, but I’ve relied on tobacco in many ways for my recovery and psychologically during lockdown it’s been an incredibly stressful time. I’ve really needed to smoke my organic tobacco, It’s not even like  chemical tobacco.and I was very excited to be a part of this case. Tobacco is not illegal in South Africa,” she says.

Legal counsel for government told the court that the number of smokers across the country has decreased from eight million people by nearly 50% due to the tobacco ban imposed during the lockdown. Government also argues that the number of patients who are smokers and who develop severe COVID-19 symptoms have stayed low because of the ban.

“We on the government’s side of this case are not going to say that the ban is 100% effective. The evidence doesn’t support that. What we will say is that there is evidence that a significant number of people have quit smoking throughout several months since the end of March and there is medical evidence to substantiate government’s cautious approach to our scarce public health resources,” says one of the lawyers representing Government is Andrew Breitenbach.

In the video below, analysis of BATSA’s cigarettes ban court case:

Support for tobacco, alcohol sectors

Business Leadership South Africa has thrown its weight behind the call on government to rethink its decision on the ban of cigarette and alcohol sales in order to steer SA’s economy back on path to recovery.

“Despite its honest purpose, the unintended consequences of this ban have caused harm that far outweighs whatever positive outcomes it hoped to achieve. A recent UCT study found that the ban on the tobacco products has done nothing more than fuel the illicit trade industry and the researchers called for its immediate repeal. Furthermore, Crime Stoppers International, a non-profit organisation focusing on transnational crime,  last week also called for the tobacco sales ban to be lifted, noting that it had provided a huge stimulus to the illicit trade in cigarettes, which was already an unwelcome drain on the South African economy before lockdown,” the organisation says in a statement.

BLSA says criminal syndicates have benefited from the ban as it has provided them with opportunities which have been at the expense of legitimate business activity and public safety as the products sold are unregulated.

“The lockdown has made it even more profitable to trade in illegal tobacco and alcohol products,” says Tebele Luthuli, managing director of Business Against Crime SA and director of policy and legislation at BLSA.

“Supply and demand have meant that sellers can charge premium prices. This illegal practice has weakened the private sector’s contribution to employment opportunities and long-term economic growth. This will eventually undermine the rule of law and citizens’ trust in government.”

“Our government desperately needs every cent through tax revenue to curb this scourge and save lives, which will ultimately be used to build the shattered economy once this pandemic is over.

“The government needs to be flexible around the issue of the alcohol ban. We also welcome and support the recommendations from the South African Research Council calling for the lifting of alcohol ban, saying there is no extreme pressure on hospital beds set aside to treat COVID-19 patients,” Luthuli adds.

SA records 8 195 new COVID-19 infections, 213 related deaths
2 August 2020, 10:18 PM

South Africa’s coronavirus cases have climbed by 8 195.

The number of infections in the country now stands at 511 485.

The death toll has climbed to 8 366 after 213 related deaths occurred overnight.

“25 from Eastern Cape, 40 from
Gauteng, 31 from KwaZulu Natal, 43 from Western Cape, 51 from the Free State and 23
from Limpopo,” the Health Ministry says in a statement.

The country’s recovery rate remains at 68% with 347 227 South Africans having survived the disease.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has conveyed his condolences to the grieving families. He also thanked health workers for their efforts in the fight against the disease.

On Saturday, the Presidency said additional facilities, equipment and personnel are being deployed in provinces still experiencing an increase in infections.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said 20 000 locally-produced, non-invasive ventilators are be delivered to health facilities this month.

The National Ventilator Project is currently organising the manufacturing of ventilators to assist patients infected with the coronavirus.

South Africa remains among the top five countries with the most infections in the world.

It has the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population.

 

Nzimande calls for an end to the ‘tenderisation of the state’
2 August 2020, 9:58 PM

The General Secretary of the SACP Blade Nzimande has called for an end to, what he calls, the tenderisation of the state, in order to fight the continuing corruption in South Africa.

He says following the reports of alleged corruption by ANC and government officials involving funds meant to be used in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 – the state must review the process of doing business.

He was addressing the virtual 99th anniversary of the SACP.

This year’s celebrations were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nzimande says if the ‘tenderisation of the State’ does not get the much needed attention from government – then the alliance must kiss this democratically elected government good bye.

“We must intensify the struggle to end the tenderisation of the state and the corruption that it brings and tackle its associated tendencies like tenderpreuners and what some are referring to as COVID-preuners. We want to say that tenderisation of the state and corruption that it breeds constitutes one of the biggest single threats to our national liberation movement.”

In the video below, Nzimande speaks out against corruption:

ANC NEC member and Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has conceded that corruption will have detrimental effects on the ANC-led alliance – which includes the SACP, Cosatu and the national civic organisation, Sanco. He says factionalism within the ANC must be rooted out.

Factionalism in the ANC means factionalism in the Communist Party. We have to work together to rid our organisation of this demon, compared corruption is threatening to tear our alliance apart and this will dent the deep trust people have in our movement. These have to be ruthlessly uprooted by the alliance partners, with the same viguar that we used to have when fought against apartheid. We know that we celebrate important birthdays, but the fourth lines of poverty have exposed our friends – we need to close ranks in search of our solutions.”

Trade Union Federation, Cosatu, has committed to continue to be a part of the ANC-led tripartite alliance as long as the mission is to continue to improve the lives of the working class in South Africa. Its first Deputy President, Mike Shingange, says it’ll take good leadership from the SACP for the country to prosper in all spheres.

“It would not have been possible for the party to have so many stalwarts or for a trade union movement that came with leaders of society that came to different sections of life, including in government, in the ANC and the party. We want to urge the party to take this moment to continue to do the same thing going forward because the road ahead it shall require a political clear activist of the country.”

And the Young Communist League has weighed in and denounced the continued acts of corruption as the country faces the challenge of Covid-19.

National Secretary, Tinyiko Ntini, says: “We need to come out strongly and condemn this because it’s so shameful that while some are so stressed in fighting the invisible enemy, there are those that have seen an opportunity to enrich themselves. There are those that have seen this as an opportunity for them to be millionaires and I think it’s high time that we need to wage the struggle and make sure that in our structures stand against these particular things.”

Nzimande has, on the other hand, described as a “grievous mistake” the move by the Finance Ministry to seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He says it is a shame that South Africa allows itself to be subject to tough interest rates while it repays the loan to the IMF, at a time when the country’s economy is not in a good space.

Public Enterprises rejects claims of interference in Eskom pension fund appointment
2 August 2020, 8:03 PM

The Department of Public Enterprises has rejected newspaper reports that Minister Pravin Gordhan revoked the appointment of the first black woman to be the chairperson of Eskom pension and provident fund and instead appointed Caroline Henry to the position.

The department describes the Sunday Independent report as having been manufactured by an arrogant and destructive cabal employed to tarnish the reputation of all those fighting against corruption and to defend malfeasance.

According to Public Enterprises, the choice and appointment of the Pension Fund chairperson is entirely the responsibility of Eskom.

DPE says Minister Gordhan approved Henry’s appointment based on the information before
him. “And at no stage of the process did the DPE or the Minister contribute, suggest, or veto
any names.”

The department is urging South Africans to give the pension fund space to do its work, while ensuring the nation of its commitment to the transformation agenda that seeks to reverse the wrongs of apartheid and the recent State Capture atrocities.

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