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Prison
Prisoners’ rights organisation threatens to take Lamola to court
2 August 2020, 5:53 PM

The South African Sentenced and Awaiting Trial Prisoners Organisation (Sasapo) is threatening to take Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola, to court for violation of human rights over the delay in the release of at least 19 000 prisoners as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in May.

The petty crime offenders were set to be freed in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19 in prisons. But the organisation claims only a handful have been released.

Sasapo claims that thousands of critically ill prisoners, mothers with babies and those who have met the conditions of the correctional services release programme are still languishing behind bars without any explanation from the department. The organisation is calling for the release of prisoners with chronic illnesses, over the age of 60, and facing death sentences due to the rising COVID-19 fatalities.

Chairperson Phindile Zweni says : “We have decided that we are now going to take the Minister back to court. He defied the constitutional rights of the inmates; human rights of these inmates have really been violated. We want to know why the minister doesn’t want to come to the party and to speak about why he doesn’t want to release these categories of people. Every day 2, 3 people are dying in prison the stats that they are giving to the media are  incorrect, totally incorrect.”

Zweni says the delay in the release of these prisoners will result in more prison breaks.

“A week before the outbreak of the awaiting trial inmates at Malmesbury Correctional Centre, I was informed of the planned escapes. I warned the office of the national commissioner. It’s going to happen at all the centres, even at other centers, inmates are now going to try and escape. They fear for their lives. Three people sleeping on one bed, there’s no social distancing, there’s no food, there’s no PPE in prison.”

The Justice and Correctional Services department has refuted the claims and attributes the delay to the pandemic. Spokesperson Chrispin Phiri has accused Sasapo of misleading the nation with their unfounded allegations. He says the number of released prisoners stands at 7 000.

“To date, of the 19 000 prisoners earmarked for release, approximately, 7 000 have been released by correctional facilities. The delay is occasioned by the fact that COVID-19 is everywhere in our society, so even parole board members themselves are affected by COVID-19. So COVID-19 has caused such a major disruption in the way we conduct our jobs , in the way we conduct our protocols, it has been difficult for them to do this expeditiously, but the work is still ongoing.”

Phiri is also refuting claims that the department is concealing the actual number of COVID-19 deaths in prisons.

“The Ministry and the department approve a statement that goes out to the public, which informs the public about the daily statistics of COVID-19. The Minister appears before parliament, he tables a report to parliament and explains o our communities through accountability processes of parliament, what is the state of COVID-19 in our facilities and what we are doing with regards to the COVID-19 parole dispensation.”

In the video below, most prisoners qualifying for COVID-19 parole were to be released in the next two years:

 

 

Wayde van Niekerk tests positive for COVID-19 in Italy: Report
2 August 2020, 5:00 PM

South Africa’s Olympic 400 metres champion Wayde van Niekerk tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy last week, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Van Niekerk, who romped to Olympic gold four years ago in a world record time of 43.03 seconds, was set to participate in a meet in Trieste – his first competition outside of South Africa since 2017 following a serious knee injury.

“I don’t know how it’s possible. Wayde has been training for the whole week and never had any symptom, not even after testing positive. He hasn’t had a fever,” the 28-year-old’s manager Peet Van Zyl told the publication.

Van Niekerk, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament while playing a charity touch rugby game in 2017 to leave his career in doubt, began his comeback in February this year.

Cyril Ramaphosa
SA COVID-19 cases surpass the 500 000 mark
1 August 2020, 11:00 PM

As of today, South Africa has recorded more than half a million confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

According to the Presidency, of the cumulative total of 503 290 cases, 342 461 people have already recovered and 152 676 cases are currently active. The death toll has climbed to 8 153.

“The global coronavirus pandemic is the most serious public health crisis that the world has faced in over a century. On every continent, nations have struggled to contain the spread of the virus and to contend with its effects. In our own country, 8 153 people are known to have lost their lives, and the actual number of deaths due to the virus is likely to exceed this figure. We deeply mourn this loss and offer our sympathies to the families and friends who are in grief,” President Cyril Ramaphosa says in a statement.

Promising signs in rate of transmission

The Presidency says after a rapid rise in infections over the last two months, the daily increase in infections appears to be stabilising, particularly in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape.

“While it may be too soon to draw firm conclusions, this suggests that the prevention measures that South Africans have implemented are having an effect. Our recovery rate is currently around 68%. Our case fatality rate – which is the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases – remains at 1.6%, significantly lower than the global average.”

Government has expressed gratitude for the low mortality rate in the country.

“While South Africa has the fifth highest number of total COVID-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population. For this, we are grateful to the work of our health professionals and the innovative treatments they have pioneered. Before the advent of the epidemic in South Africa, government set in motion a strategy to respond swiftly and comprehensively to protect as many lives as possible.”

It is crediting the hard lockdown for delaying the spread of the virus by more than two months, “preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in infections in late March.”

The Presidency adds: “Had South Africans not acted together to prevent this outcome, our health system would have been overwhelmed in every province. This would have resulted in a dramatic loss of life.”

As the nation prepares itself for a peak in infections, government says additional facilities, equipment and personnel are being deployed in provinces still experiencing an increase in infections.

“During this month, the National Ventilator Project will deliver 20 000 locally-produced, non-invasive ventilators to where they are most needed. A dedicated team drawn from several institutions, led by the Biovac Institute, is preparing to manufacture doses of a successful vaccine locally.”

Government says it is  in a race to fix the logistical and other problems that have led to a shortage of personal protective equipment for health workers and other frontline staff in several parts of the country.

“We have empowered our law enforcement to investigate all reports of alleged corruption and irregularities in the procurement of medical and other supplies. It is unconscionable that there are people who may be using this health crisis to unlawfully enrich themselves.”

In the video below, the call for all companies awarded with COVID-19 tenders to be published welcomed:

The Presidency is urging South Africans to continue to work together to reduce the number of new infections.

“We must maintain our vigilance until we have no more coronavirus cases in our country. If we do not do so, there is the risk of a resurgence in those areas where the virus has now begun to stabilise. Above all, we need to continue to follow prevention measures to reduce the rate of infection and flatten the curve. By wearing a mask correctly, keeping a distance of two metres from other people, and washing our hands regularly, we can protect ourselves, our families, friends, co-workers, fellow commuters and neighbours”

Mokgoro mortified by performance of some of his MECs
1 August 2020, 10:13 PM

North West Premier, Job Mokgoro, has described the failure of some Provincial Executive Council members to perform as deeply embarrassing. He was speaking during a meeting with the provincial Legislature’s Chairpersons’ Forum in Mahikeng. The forum summoned Mokgoro to account on some MECs’ failure to implement the legislature’s resolutions.

The Legislature Chairpersons’ Forum comprises of all chairpersons of the portfolio committees the provincial legislature. These are oversight committees that are responsible for holding the executive accountable. The forum summoned premier Mokgoro this week to raise concerns about the performance of his executive committee members.

“There is generally insufficient or poor performance because we have a scenario where departments are not even getting closer to achieve in their targets. The audit opinion from the AG and other institutions supporting democracy like the public protector and the public service commission, their recommendations are not being implemented by various departments including municipalities. No action is being taken,” says

The forum’s chairperson Mmoloki Cwaile says they have also raised concerns regarding the appointment of administrators to municipalities which have been placed under administration.

“Administrators deployed to the municipalities were just taken from the streets and no proper selection or recruitment process for the public sector. They were not subjected to vetting but they were made to preside even as acting municipal managers, CFOs at different municipalities, and it is both historical and contemporary that the performance of section 139 administrators have not been satisfactorily or changed any material conditions of the municipalities.”

Premier Mokgoro has conceded that the performance of most of his MECs is below average.

“Performance leaves much to be desired and I have found that where our expenditure is high, then it is not matched by practical delivery on the ground. We cannot be treating our people like that. There are instances where we are not spending the money that we have on infrastructure, such as pit-latrines. Two consecutive financial years’ money that was set aside for this purpose was returned because we did not spent it.”

In the video below, Mokgoro summoned over performance of some of his officials:

A political analyst from the North West University, Dr Oshupeng Maseng, says members of the legislature are using the service delivery challenges in the province for political gain.

“However, we must also consider that there might be a bit of politicking behind in a sense that, when you look at legislation, legislation actually allows the provincial legislature to convene the premier to fire those who are within the executive council. So it might be politicking at the same time, not genuinely concerns on service delivery.”

Meanwhile, Mokgoro says he will conduct an investigation into some of the concerns raised that members of the provincial legislature have raised and under-performers will be severely dealt with.

Students’ union accuses some institutions of failing to protect students
1 August 2020, 10:06 PM

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has lambasted some educational institutions for failing to protect returning students. Thousands of students have gone back to campus following the Higher Education Department’s decision to allow medical students and final year students to go back to school.

The University of Witwatersrand has had 33 coronavirus cases in the last week. This is after universities opened their doors to 33% of their populations, mainly medical students and final year students. Institutions are hoping infections will not escalate but it is a reality that they might have to grapple with. Wits spokesperson, Shirona Patel, says the infections are relatively low.

“All the staff and students who have been identified as COVID positive are self isolating, we have had no cases yet of COVID-19 in any of our residences. The 23 students are out of a population of about 37 500. The statistics are still low when compared to Gauteng and national statistics,” says Patel.

The Vaal University of Technology has so far had one infection. Spokesperson Mike Khuboni says they’ve had students returning since June. Thus far, they have 3 000 students on campus and they have strict protocols in place.

“All the students when they arrived we gave them an induction program for COVID-19 protocols, they were given masks, we’ve got sanitisers at learning facilities and residences including staff as well so that is what we have done and we gave them notices in terms of how to make sure they maintain social distancing so we monitor them.”

But the South African Union of Students is not convinced that institutions are doing the best they can. The organisation has written a number of letters to the Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, pleading with him to intervene particularly on behalf of medical students, who are working in hospitals without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The organisation’s president, Misheck Mugabe, says the Minister is yet to respond two weeks later.

“Medical students who are part of those who are participating and volunteering to assist medical workers in hospitals they are complaining about no provision of transport accommodation and many other things that are supposed to support them to do in-service training and practicals in hospitals.”

In their letters to the Minister, the union has also asked him to intervene on behalf of students, who do not have PPEs and those who are forced to do clinical work, are not given enough time to prepare for assessments, have not been given e-learning equipment and NSFAS payouts as well as those that have been forced to de-register. The Higher Education Department was not immediately available to comment.

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