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To beat COVID-19, we have to act collectively: Mkhize
21 May 2020, 12:35 PM

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the only way South Africans can overcome the spread of COVID-19 is if they act collectively as citizens.

Mkhize says his department has done its utmost to try to curb the spread of this coronavirus.

Speaking at a virtual meeting with experts and researchers in sharing information about COVID-19, Mkhize says the fight against COVID-19 is a people’s war against the virus.

He says, “We will defeat the pandemic on the basis of collective social behavioural change, that creates a whole new culture of distancing, of use of masks, cough etiquette and ensuring that everybody is cautious of their individual roles, because unless our citizens themselves take responsibility of infection control, then off course we will not be able to win.

STREAM: Open COVID-19 Modellers Symposium

 

Last week, Mkhize warned the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) that the coronavirus pandemic may last for a extended period and all necessary precautions must be adhered to at all times, even when the regulations are eased.

This after Cosatu proposed conditions for government to re-open the economy in a phased manner and said it would provide President Cyril Ramaphosa with a list of conditions that will ensure the rights of all workers.

South Africa has recorded 18 003 confirmed cases, 339 deaths and 8950 recoveries, with the Western Cape accounting for most infections.

 

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Athletes, artists urged to apply for relief funds before deadline
21 May 2020, 11:46 AM

The Limpopo Department of Sports, Arts and Culture has urged athletes and artists who have been affected by the national lockdown to submit their applications to the relief fund by June 19, 2020.

The department says it has allocated R8.3 million for COVID-19 relief funds in the province.

The application process started on Friday. Athletes, artists and coaches whose sporting events have been cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 have been urged to take advantage of the opportunity and apply.

Department spokesperson Lucky Tshilimandila says applicants can submit their applications at the district offices and the provincial offices in Polokwane.

Tshilimandila says, “The provincial relief fund for artists and athletes was opened on the 15th of May 2020 and the closing date is the 19th of June. At the moment applications are coming in everyday. Athletes and artists are submitting their applications in our respective district offices.”

The South African Arts and Culture Youth Forum (SAACYF), an organization representing artists, says the provincial department must review the criteria for the relief fund.

SAACYF president Romeo Ramuada says the requirements exclude many artists from benefiting from the fund.

He says, “A lot of artists are not going to qualify because of the criteria where they want everybody to come with issues like your tax clearance. Many artists don’t have such documentation. We are not happy, we are very disappointed and we are going to make sure that as an organization that represents artists we are going to watch this particular process and we want to see our members being part of the adjudication panels.”

The video below is on artists reacting to the COVID-19 relief fund:

 

Match officials including those officiating Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) and National First Division’s (NFD) games are amongst those applying for relief funds.

SAFA deputy chairperson in Limpopo Vincent Ramphago says they are making applications for match officials and SAFA administrators.

Ramphago says, “We have distributed the COVID-19 forms to all our regions and LFA –  only referees that are not civil servants are eligible to apply. The regions are assisting these referees in applying in terms of administrators. We are doing applications for 30 administrators and we believe that before the end of the week, we will be done with all our applications.”

Meanwhile, only athletes and artists who lost income as a result of cancellation of the events are eligible to apply for relief funds.

Professional boxer Thembani Hobyane says the requirements should have covered all professional boxers. Boxers are not included because they did not yet have dates for their tournaments.

Hobyane says this means they will not have any income.

He says, “We are not included because, I was not having fights coming up, I feel very bad – because without a fight, I’m not gonna eat, I don’t think the fight will happen soon and I think government must include us.”

The National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture also allocated R150 million for COVID-19 relief funds

UPDATE: Wits students opt for deregistration
21 May 2020, 7:49 AM

Editorial note: The initial version of this story did not include a response from Wits University, which SABC News has subsequently received and incorporated.

Wits University has disputed claims that many of its students have deregistered since the advent of remote learning amid the national state of disaster. Instead, it’s of the view that a significant number is committed and adjusting well to online lessons.

“Wits has extracted the data and our analysis shows that less than 0.3% (less than 1%) of the total student population has deregistered since the start of the 2020 academic year. These stats are much lower than at the same time in 2019.

“The majority of the deregistrations in 2020 took place before mid-March. Between 23 March and 18 May 2019, Wits received 208 requests for deregistrations compared to 118 in 2020 for the same period,” says Buhle Zuma, Senior Communications Officer at Wits University.

She has attributed deregistrations to reasons other than online learning. Among those are personal circumstances, health challenges and transfers to different institutions.

“The University wishes to emphasise that alternative plans have been put in place to assist those students who may have had difficulty with online learning. These will commence once contact classes resume,” says Zuma.

Wits believes that the issue of deregistration has been politicised and that there is a deliberate intention to mislead the public.

This after the university’s Student Representative Council (SRC) told SABC  News that 15% of students have been unable to access the online learning system, which they say has led to many of them opting to deregister.

The SRC says it received numerous calls from students asking to deregister because they are struggling to cope with online learning and the workload, as some of their environments are not conducive to learning.

While institutions have provided some students with laptops and partnered with network providers to ensure the continuity in learning, students have raised issues such as connectivity as an obstacle to completing their studies.

Secretary General of the SRC at Wits, Katie Morgets, says the calls received by the student body are from students who are often marginalised and are unable to cope with the current workload.

Morgets says, “A lot of students are complaining about the amount in terms of the workload that they have been receiving from the university – premised on the notion that under the circumstances, this situation is different. We find ourselves in varying living conditions, we find ourselves plagued by very different socio-economic circumstances…”

“Another thing that we have found is that even though the university has empowered students with data, there are some students who live in remote areas where there is inadequate access to proper network connection. thus they are not able to actively partake in the online sessions. It has led to a rise in anxiety, a rise in mental health issues to a point where students feel that maybe the best option for them is to deregister from the institution and to try at a later stage…” added Morgets.

The video below explains how Wits University online learning works:

Deregistration discouraged

CEO of Universities South Africa Ahmed Bawa says it is not all bleak and has encouraged students to remain in the system. He says they will have an opportunity to complete the academic year.

Bawa says, “I certainly don’t think that students should deregister because even if students are having huge difficulties with online learning, the universities have all committed themselves to re-establishing the academic year, reconstituting the academic year and depending on what the President says in the next few days with regard to the lockdown and so on, it’s quite possible that the phased re-introduction of students onto our campuses will begin quite soon…”

“From my point of view, at least, I think the critical issue is for students to stay in the system because they will all have a chance to complete the academic year,” Bawa added.

Students from institutions across the country have been learning through online platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown for two months.

Meanwhile, reports about cheating during online assessments by students at the institution have also surfaced with Wits allegedly planning to take action against such conduct.

Wits University has also advised students who may be struggling to cope, to consult their lecturers and use internal counselling structures before considering deregistration.

 

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SA First Forum against reopening of schools
19 May 2020, 12:46 PM

The South African First Forum has objected to the reopening of schools until a proper plan for the safety of the learners and teachers is in place.

Convenor of the Forum advocate Rod Solomons, says they have written to President Cyril Ramaphosa, highlighting their concerns.

Solomons says more than 27 000 people signed a petition asking government to take into consideration the concerns of parents, teachers, and learners.

He says, “Parents indicated they will not send their children back to school and teachers should not return until the health and safety concerns are fully guaranteed.”

“We also call on the President to talk sense to the Minister of Basic Education to come up with a sensible and credible plan for our schools, ” adds Solomons.

Meanwhile, the Federation of School Governing Bodies says it supports a phased reopening of schools across the country as long as the necessary precautions are taken to protect learners and staff from the coronavirus, schools can open.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to address the nation on Tuesday on the reopening of schools across the country, following a special meeting of the Council of Education Ministers on Monday, which included the Minister together with the nine provincial education MECs.

The federations CEO Paul Colditz says Motshekga also needs to reassure parents that it is safe for their children to return.

Colditz says the federation believes it’s the responsibility of the Department of Basic Education and the provincial departments to provide schools with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE’s) ensuring the safety of learners but also teachers at the school.

Parents anxious about school beginners for 2021

 

 

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Unions take pay cuts, BRPs and SAA execs refuse
19 May 2020, 12:07 PM

The South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca), says a majority of unions at the South African Airways (SAA) have decided to take a pay cut to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen all flights grounded.

The National Union of Metal Workers (Numsa), the Pilots’ Association (SAAPA) and Sacca have called for a forensic audit and investigation into all expenditure made by the Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana.

Sacca Deputy President Christopher Shabangu says SAA Executives and the Business Rescue Practitioners have refused to take a pay cut, despite unions having taken one.

Shabangu says the BRPs have refused to engage with unions and the Department of Public Enterprises on the development of a strategy to save the embattled airline.

Shabangu says, “The Business Rescuers are obliged to come up with a plan to rescue the business. They came and said we think SAA can be rescued and what follows after that is they make an analysis of what’s needed for the business to be rescued and that’s going to come out of the plan. You cannot come and say you want the money first for you to be able to have a plan. They have been given R10 billion and asking for the second R10 billion, it made no sense…”

PODCAST: Unions representing SAA workers say they want the Business Rescue Practitioners audited

“All the workers have taken a sacrifice taking a pay cut. There’s a process that we are busy with the minister or with the department and we have invited the BRPs to come and join us, they have refused. The executive of SAA is not taking any pay cut, the BRPs themselves are actually not even taking a pay cut.” added Shabangu.

He says the BRPs have refused to engage with unions and the Department of Public Enterprises on the development of a strategy to save the embattled airline and has called for the BRPs  to resign if they do not want to be part of consultations.

“The minister is saying please try and reduce your fees because they are exorbitant, they not coming to the party. The invitation is still open to the BRPs to come and join the business compact, we’re basically doing exactly what the business rescuers are supposed to have done in the past five months, we are basically devising a plan as to how to save SAA.”

Shabangu says, “If then they cannot join us, we do advise them to actually recuse themselves and resign. It’s not a joke we are talking about a lot of people’s jobs.”

The BRPs have until the 26th of May 2020 to submit their Business Rescue Plan.

Below is SAA fact sheet:

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