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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:

 

World Health Assembly gives thumbs up to COVID-19 inquiry
19 May 2020, 5:14 PM

The World Health Assembly has adopted a resolution that would initiate a process of an impartial, independent evaluation of the World Health Organisation’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote, by consensus among the 194 member states, determines that such an investigation would happen at an appropriate time.

The Assembly’s decision comes a day after United States President Donald Trump publicly released a letter he’d sent to Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus threatening to make a temporary funding freeze permanent if the organisation didn’t commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days.

The resolution determines a stepwise process of an impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review the experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the text urges measures on global coordination, implementation of national action plans, including a whole of government and society approach to the virus while calling on international stakeholders to work collaboratively to facilitate equitable and affordable access to vaccines and therapeutics.

In the video below, the opening of the World Health Assembly:

The two-day virtual meeting had kicked off on Monday.

World leaders, including the leader of the World Health Organisation, called for solidarity in the fight against coronavirus, emphasising the need for collaboration and equitable access to a vaccine – once developed.

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