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President Buhari calls for Nigerians to follow his vaccine lead
6 March 2021, 9:26 PM

President Muhammadu Buhari had his first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Saturday, part of a bid to boost public confidence as Nigeria attempts to inoculate 80 million people this year.

Vaccinating Nigeria’s 200 million people, and those in other developing countries, is seen as key to stemming the spread of the coronavirus, but getting doses across the vast nation, with its pot-holed roads and lawless areas, is a huge challenge.

Not all Nigeria’s states have functioning airports, rail networks are limited, and authorities also have to overcome public distrust around the vaccines.

“As a demonstration of leadership and faith in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, I have received my first jab and I wish to commend it to all eligible Nigerians to do the same so that we can be protected from the virus,” Buhari said.

“The vaccine offers hope for a safe country free of coronavirus,” the 78-year-old president added after he was vaccinated live on Nigerian television.

On Friday, a doctor became the first person in Nigeria to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Nigeria:

Nigeria, with 158 042 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 954 deaths, has not been as hard hit as first feared, but aims to vaccinate 40% of its people this year, and another 30% in 2022.

“I urge Nigerians … not to listen to any conspiracy theories,” Boss Mustapha, who chairs Nigeria’s presidential task force on COVID-19, said at Buhari’s vaccination.

Nigeria took delivery of 3.92 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday through COVAX and expects 84 million doses via the scheme for poor and middle-income countries this year.

The scheme is co-led by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and the World Health Organisation, with UNICEF an implementing partner.

Stellenbosch FC end winless streak, beat Cape Town City 2-1
6 March 2021, 8:51 PM

Cape Town City suffered a 2-1  loss against Stellenbosch FC in the DSTV Premiership Western Cape derby.

Stellies coach Steve Barker will be pleased with the result at the Cape Town Stadium as his team has struggled to secure wins since the beginning of the year.

Both sides were looking to bring an end to their long winless streaks. City had gone five games without victory while Stellies had failed to produce a win in eight matches across all competitions.

The two sides had one common objective to attack throughout the match. It was a fast paced match and 14 minutes later the visitors broke the deadlock through a Mogamed de Goede goal.

The Citizens had failed to clear a corner kick and they were punished. City pushed for a goal from different angles and were unfortunate not to capitalise in the 18th minute allowing Sage Stephens to make a good save.

Six minutes later, after Stellenbosch had launched an attack, the home-side replied with a goal that came from quick seven passes for Aubrey Ngoma to level matters. He came close immediately into the second half, but his attempt was cleared off the line by Mark van Heerden.

It was Stellenbosch that would once more take the lead in the 48th minute through Ashley du Preez with a powerful shot. After that goal Cape Town City completely dominated possession in search on equaliser. Stephens had to pull some good saves as Stellies allowed them space to get a goal.

Steve Barker’s side continued to defend deep and protect their 2-1 lead till the end for their first win since the first week of January.

 

Senate passes Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill
6 March 2021, 8:29 PM

The Senate on Saturday passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan in a party-line vote after an all-night session that saw Democrats battling among themselves over jobless aid and the Republican minority failing in attempts to push through some three dozen amendments.

The final bill includes $400 billion in one-time payments of $1 400 to most Americans, $300 a week in extended jobless benefits for the 9.5 million people thrown out of work in the crisis, and $350 billion in aid to state and local governments that have seen the pandemic blow a hole in their budgets.

The Senate voted 50-49, with no Republicans voting in favor, on what would be one of the largest stimulus packages in US history.

Several Republicans left the chamber immediately after the vote, while Senator Bernie Sanders fist-bumped Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The fight is not over as the bill needs to return to the House of Representatives, which approved a slightly different version a week earlier.

The standoff within the Democratic party over the jobless benefits and the all-night effort by Republicans to amend a bill that polls show is popular with voters illustrated the difficulty that Biden will face in pushing other policies through a Congress that Democrats control by the narrowest of majorities.

The bill is a priority for Biden as the country battles a pandemic that has killed more than 520 000 Americans.

Biden leads Americans in moment of silence to mourn US COVID-19 deaths:

The chamber set a record in its longest single vote in the modern era – 11 hours and 50 minutes – as Democrats negotiated a compromise on unemployment benefits to satisfy centrists like Senator Joe Manchin, who often walks a delicate tightrope as a Democrat representing a state, West Virginia, that overwhelmingly supported Republican former President Donald Trump in the November election.

The extended unemployment payments, which are to be paid out on top of state jobless benefits, proved to be the most contentious part of the bill. The House bill had set the supplemental benefit at $400 a week, but Senate Democrats finally agreed to knock that down to $300.

The House bill also featured a measure to more than double the minimum wage to $15 per hour, which the Senate also rejected.

Moderate Democrats feared that the higher jobless benefits and minimum wage hike would overheat the economy and hurt businesses in rural states.

Senate Democrats used a process called reconciliation to pass the measure with a simple majority rather than the 60 of 100 votes normally required under the chamber’s rules.

It was unclear whether Democrats will try to use that maneuver on other policy goals such as legislation dealing with climate change and immigration.

One Republican, Daniel Sullivan of Alaska, left Washington on Friday night for a family funeral, meaning that Democrats did not need Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote in the normally 50-50 chamber.

Republicans have broadly supported previous stimulus packages to fight the virus and revive the economy. But with Democrats in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress, they criticized this bill as too expensive.

The country has yet to replace 9.5 million jobs lost since last year and the White House says it could take years to do so.

Washington got unexpected good news on Friday after data showed that US employment surged in February, adding 379 000 jobs, significantly higher than many economists had expected.

 

Robben Island Museum cancels bursary programme
6 March 2021, 7:40 PM

The Robben Island Museum says it has cancelled its annual bursary programme for 2021 due to financial strain caused by COVID-19.

Visitor numbers dropped significantly during the 2020 festive season, compared to the year before.

Steeped in history, Robben Island usually draws thousands of visitors every year. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.

“Robben Island Museum has just come out of the 2020/2021 holiday season with a significant decline in visitor numbers. In fact, the numbers are in excess of 90 percent [down] as compared to previous years,” says the spokesperson for the museum, Melany Kuhn.

The museum says it is unable to sustain its annual bursary fund for this academic year because of revenue losses. The bursaries, worth R33 000 each, were usually awarded to seven students for postgraduate studies in fields such as history and heritage studies.

“Robben Island Museum is however committed to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 and we are constantly exploring ways to attract visitors to the island, particularly domestic travellers and we certainly look forward to being in a position to fund education in the 2022 academic year,” says Kuhn.

Currently, there is only one ferry a day that departs from the museum at the V&A Waterfront to the island. The ferry runs every day except on Thursdays.

Valentine’s Day weddings on Robben Island cancelled

Earlier this year, weddings on Robben Island on Valentine’s Day were cancelled.  This after the Robben Island Museum decided to cancel the prestigious event.

This follows the temporary suspension of applications for IDs, passports and marriage services. The Department of Home Affairs said this was due to an increasing number of staffers testing positive for COVID-19.

The annual Robben Island Valentine’s Day weddings have become a permanent feature during the month of romance for the past 21 years.

Robben Island’s Manager for Infrastructure Girshon Manana says, ” This year would have marked 21 years of celebrating love on the island. Last year 19 couples tied the knot with historic Mr Frankford Williams and his wife Cindi Mullins who are visually impaired officially becoming the first couple in South Africa to receive their marriage certificate in braille.”

Nhlangwini Tribal Authority’s iNkosi Melizwe Dlamini passes on
6 March 2021, 7:09 PM

Inkosi Melizwe Dlamini of the Nhlangwini Tribal Authority in Highflats in southern KwaZulu-Natal has passed away.

This has been confirmed by traditional prime minister to the Zulu monarch and nation, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Dlamini, who was 52 years old, had been sick for some time after having suffered a stroke, according to his family.

“We are very…I can’t explain it. As I’m standing here, I can’t even control myself but we are trying very hard to contain ourselves. But Melizwe Dlamini was everything to us. Even the way he led his people was exemplary,” says family spokesperson, Sipho Dlamini.

Induna uBongani Jaca adds: “As the Nhlangwini community, we are very saddened by the passing of iNkosi. He was very helpful to us. He always had good advice for us. He was a chief that loved development so the news hit us really bad.”

Inkosi Melizwe Dlamini’s grandmother princess Mpiyamaxheku Dlamini was King Dinuzulu’s daughter.

He made headlines, receiving backlash from Zulu traditionalists, after he lodged an application with the Nhlapho Commission – which was established in 2004 – for his chieftaincy to be elevated to that of a king.

The commission was set up to look into traditional leadership disputes and claims. Dlamini was one of 11 chiefs in KwaZulu-Natal who claimed kingdomship at the time. – Report by Bongani Gema

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