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Communications Committee wants SABC to redo skills audit
23 July 2020, 9:33 PM

The Portfolio Committee on Communications says it will invite the SABC to discuss the consultation process it had with staff regarding the planned restructuring at the public broadcaster.

The committee says in a statement that it is clear from the briefings it received from unions and staff that the public broadcaster’s top management had issued notices of retrenchment before conducting an open and transparent skills audit or consulting with relevant stakeholders.

The committee says the SABC should start the process again, from the beginning. It says that consultations with unions, the CWU and BEMAWU, make it clear that retrenchments should be put on hold to allow engagements with all stakeholders in a transparent manner.

Committee Chair Boyce Maneli says they support government’s position that every effort should be made to save jobs in all sectors of the economy and that retrenchments should be a last resort.

On Wednesday, unions and the SABC Editorial Forum addressed the Parliament’s Communications Committee in a virtual sitting on the public broadcaster’s intention to possibly retrench 600 permanent employees and cancel the contracts of around 1 200 freelancers.

Unions say SABC’s skills audit process fatally flawed:

They raised the concern over the Section 189 process and an alleged lack of transparency around it.

The Forum’s Zolisa Sigabi told the sitting that they requested a copy of the proposed structure in advance “so that they could analyse it and make informed contributions. But our request was declined. To date, we have not officially received that structure as the news staff.”

Trade unions told Parliament that the current process of possible retrenchments at the SABC is premature.

BEMAWU’s Hannes Du Buisson expressed concern that the SABC may retrench people crucial to the operation of the public broadcaster. CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala raised concerns, especially about the skills audit process.

The SABC management was meant to address the Committee on Tuesday but they were turned away.

MPs were unhappy that the executive’s presentation didn’t address some of the issues the committee had previously asked clarity on.

Parliament questions SABC’s turnaround strategy:

 

 

Gauteng man baffled after testing COVID-19 positive despite completing quarantine
23 July 2020, 9:15 PM

A Gauteng man is baffled as he is still COVID-19 positive, despite a strict 14-day quarantine. The government employee conducted the test after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus that has already claimed almost 6 000 lives in the country.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), re-testing people who have experienced mild illness and have recovered from COVID-19 is not recommended. The institute says a person is considered safe to return to the workplace and discontinue self-isolation if they are no longer infectious.

Speaking to SABC News on condition of anonymity – the Gauteng resident says he has been advised by his doctor to begin another period of quarantine.

“My wife was not well so I took her to the hospital. They did the COVID test for her. She tested positive, then I did the test and also tested positive. I quarantined myself at home for 14 days. They gave us the forms to go to Lancet and do the test again. We did the test, my wife is negative and I’m still positive after 15 days.”

Just this week, a Durban doctor reported having a COVID-19 patient who has been re-infected three months after her initial infection. It is believed the NICD is monitoring this case.

On whether these are isolated cases, Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele says: “It is not an isolated case. What is known about the global literature is that after 14 days, most people recover, their immunity develops and they can control infection. Therefore they pose a lesser risk but it doesn’t mean that everybody will be negative. Even if you recover, you still have to follow the non-pharmaceutical interventions.”

The Vice President for Research at the South African Medical Research Council says each case can present differently, adding that while it is advisable to re-test after a period of isolation, South Africa’s health system is struggling with the escalating infection rate.

“Ideally, you should be testing after 14 days. Now that we have full-blown community transmission, the number of requests to do the test are overwhelming. It looks like the laboratories have to prioritise who is high risk and who should be tested.”

The isolation period in South Africa has now been reduced from 14 to 10 days.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has said the shortened period is in line with guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation based on global studies, which have recently been conducted.

In the video below, Mkhize announces new track and tracing technology for COVID-19:

Two Limpopo women in court for allegedly feeding toddler alcohol and dagga
23 July 2020, 7:20 PM

The two women arrested for allegedly feeding a two-year-old baby with alcohol and dagga have appeared in the Dzanani Magistrate’s Court outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo.

The suspects, Rotondwa Bulala aged 21 and her co-accused, Rinae Mphemphu, were granted R2 000 bail each.

They were arrested after they were seen on social media video feeding Bulala’s son with alcohol and dagga.

Their bail has been granted with conditions. They are denied access to the child who has been placed in a place of safety and that they can’t interfere with police investigations.

A second charge for contravening the Disaster Management Act has been added, as they were consuming alcohol during the lockdown. Their case has been postponed to 30 September.

Trump blames surge in COVID-19 cases on George Floyd protests
23 July 2020, 6:46 PM

United States President Donald Trump has blamed the surge in COVID-19 cases in his country on young people who attended nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in May.

His latest comments come as the world’s most powerful and richest nation surpassed four million infections, a death toll in excess of 146 000 with 1 200 Americans dying in just the last 24 hours.

Cases are soaring in southern and western regions of California, Texas, Florida and Georgia – accounting for more than 50% of new infections among all 50 states in the last 24 hours.

“There are likely a number of causes for the spike in infections. Cases started to rise among young Americans shortly after demonstrations – which you know very well about – which presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide. And a substantial increase in travel also was a cause. Increased gathering on holidays, such as Memorial Day, as well as young people closely congregating at bars and probably other places – maybe beaches – four or five different listed places; we have 12 that are listed on the guide – likely also contributed,” he said after returning to the White House podium for the second day running on Wednesday.

Failing to acknowledge that it was he who encouraged states to re-open their economies as early as April; many sunbelt states in the south followed his lead only to reimpose restrictions where case numbers continue to get out of hand.

“We continue to vigorously combat the rise of cases in the South and Southwest and the West. We’re closely monitoring and aggressively acting to control the infection in Texas, Arizona, California, Florida. Arizona is starting to come down. Done a very good job. They’re all doing a good job. They’re very talented people,” Trump said.

Sinking poll numbers for the President where he trails Democratic rival Joe Biden by double digits ahead of November’s election has seen greater consensus among Republicans on the wearing of masks – and a return of the daily coronavirus briefings with just the President and without a single health expert present.

The Trump Administration accelerates its push to find a vaccine:

“They are briefing me. I’m meeting them. I just spoke to Dr. Fauci. Dr. Birx is right outside. And they giving me all of – everything they know,  as of this point in time. And I’m giving the information to you, and I think it’s probably a very concise way of doing it. It seems to be working out very well.”

The doctors are experts who might be able to assist when President Trump goes off-script like this moment on therapeutics having a positive impact in the absence of a vaccine.

“Frankly, therapeutically – or maybe a word even beyond that word is “cure” – would be the best of all, and we’ll see what happens. But that would be great if we could go into the hospital, and just cure people. And we’re at a position we’re actually able to – to a certain extent, with what we have right now. And we think, in a very short period of time, we’ll be able to do that.”

Trump’s latest deflection from his own administration’s handling of the pandemic comes as public health experts attribute the spike in cases in some regions to states flouting federal guidelines and reopening too soon.

Pineapple sales triple following alcohol sales ban
23 July 2020, 6:23 PM

With the new ban on the sale of alcohol,  pineapples have been flying off the shelves. It’s not only the lure of homemade pineapple beer that has made them so popular; they also have massive health benefits.

Normally 10 000 of fresh pineapples are sold countrywide per day. Since the alcohol sales ban, three times more fresh pineapples are sold weekly. The price also tripled.

More than three-quarters of the country’s pineapples are grown in the Bathurst area, which is also home to the world’s biggest pineapple. Pineapple plants take two years to bear fruit. The Cayenne pineapple is popular for its juice, and can weigh up to four kilograms.

The price of the fruit rocketed at the beginning of lockdown in March and dropped again dramatically when alcohol sales were allowed. But Secretary of the Pineapple Growers Association Lee Botha says with the recent ban on alcohol sales, the fruit became even more popular than before.

“Sales have definitely increased by tripled if not 100%. Fresh fruit sales are incredible! The demand for pineapples is outstanding at this stage, especially with the ban on alcohol sales once again. So we are selling over 100 tons of fresh pineapples to the different markets,” he says.

Pineapple is a unique fruit with several health advantages.

“It is highly rich in Vitamin C and the bromaline in the pineapple, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, is very good for a person. In fact, there is more Vitamin C in a pineapple than in an orange. And especially for a cough mixture, fresh pineapple juice is the best thing you can use,” Botha adds.

The Cayenne pineapple is also the pine of choice for making beer.

Botha explains: “The actual peel of the pineapple has its own natural yeast in it, and then, of course, the sugar content which we call bricks, causes and makes a wonderful alcohol beverage.”

The majority of this fruit is processed in East London. The extract is exported. The crowns of the fruit are removed before processing to be replanted. Those sold as fresh fruit, keep the crown.

Pineapple farmer Richard Muir says it is a labour intensive business and transport is costly.

“20% of my annual production will hopefully go to the fresh fruit market now, where previously it was 100% to the juice market. So I think, because of the demand, hopefully, the price will also be slightly adjusted in the right direction for us.”

 

 

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