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A smoker lights up
FITA understands the court has to make a complicated judgment on lifting tobacco sales ban
26 June 2020, 9:43 AM

The Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) says it understands that the court has to make a complicated judgment on lifting the ban on the sale of tobacco products.

The High Court in Pretoria has reserved judgment in an application by FITA to have the ban lifted.

The ban was implemented by government at the start of lockdown, over 90 days ago.

As frustration grows, an online poll demanding an immediate decision on the matter is gaining momentum.

FITA chairperson and attorney, Sinenhanhla Mnguni says, “As much as it may come across as straightforward, we understand that there were a lot of documents that the courts had to peruse and consider, I think something in the region of a 6000-page document.”

“Then factoring in the differences allayed by parties involved in the litigation. Looking at the sensitivity of the matter, it’s all speculation at this point, but this is the only thing I can think of as to why the judgment is taking so long, in as far as this matter is concerned.”

In this video below, the High Court in Pretoria hears the case on the lockdown tobacco sales ban Part 3:

Early in June Advocate Arnold Subel, for FITA, called the ban on tobacco sales irrational, draconian and an act of cruelty.

“We’ve termed it a draconian prohibition. A ban of this nature is probably the most dramatic of any measure that can be taken. It is difficult to think of anything more dramatic. Shutting down an entire industry causes enormous harm.”

He said the ban is affecting the most vulnerable in society.

“The poorest of the poor are the ones suffering the most because instead of spending money on hygiene and sanitation, improving the quality of life and buying food they will be paying black market prices now for these banned substances. That’s the world we’ve been driven into now and when spaza shops keep begging ‘please relax it because it’s destroying our businesses,’ it falls on deaf ears.”

Subel told the court that Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamin-Zuma seems to be determined to keep the ban in place despite a lack of scientific evidence to prove that smoking increases the severity of COVID-19.

“There have been studies in many countries that have been inconclusive. If you don’t know then you don’t have a basis to prohibit. If you don’t know you can’t do it on Section 27 and on what informed basis can you say it is necessary to impose the prohibition? It is new territory, but that is what they say. There is currently insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco/nicotine in the prohibition or treatment of COVID-19.”

Advocate Marumo Moerane, arguing on behalf of Minister Dlamini-Zuma, said his client acted in accordance with the powers that the Disaster Management Act gave her.

 

Treasury rejects claims that it plans to use pension money to fund government
26 June 2020, 8:59 AM

The Treasury has again rejected suggestions that it intends making amendments to Regulation 28, that will allow it to use pension funds to fund government programmes.

Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act directs how money in retirement funds can be invested.

The Treasury was briefing various committees of Parliament on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni‘s supplementary budget.

The issue of prescribed assets has always sparked controversy and uncertainty.

The suggestion that the government might be considering using pension funds to fund its programmes, was again raised by the Democratic Alliance (DA) during the Treasury briefing.

This was after it emerged that Finance Minister’s speech that dealt with Regulation 28, was removed from his speech at the last minute.

In this video below, Minister Tito Mboweni delivers virtual Supplementary Budget speech to Parliament:

But both Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and his deputy David Masondo tried to re-assure lawmakers about the safety of pension funds.

They both explained what the Treasury is seeking to do with Regulation 28, but they insist that the intention is to save and protect pension funds.

Another bone of contention was a $4.2 billion loan the government is applying for from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, several lawmakers insist the loan will compromise the country’s sovereignty.

Their argument is that conditions such as structural adjustments, which normally come with IMF loans, have in the past bankrupted their recipients.

But the Treasury says the loan it seeks from the IMF, will have no such conditionality.

Treasury Director-General Dondo Mogajane says: “We should be clear, we are not going to be giving up any sovereignty, broad things that we have agreed to in the past.”

Other local and international institutions have also been approached for financial assistance.

Mboweni says the country will have to marshal all available resources in order to stimulate growth.

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ANC concerned about Chief Justice Mogoeng’s Israel remarks
25 June 2020, 9:50 PM

The African National Congress (ANC) has expressed concern over Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s remarks, expressing his apparent support for “apartheid Israel.”

In an interview with the Jerusalem Times, the governing ANC says the esteemed Chief Justice entered the arena of political commentary, which may make him vulnerable should he have to adjudicate a human rights matter in the future.

Jerusalem Post: “Chief Justice of South Africa Mogoeng Mogoeng has lamented his country’s adoption of a lopsided attitude toward the Israel-Palestinian conflict and said that it would have greater influence if it displayed a more balanced approach.” https://t.co/iLOku0w7Gp

— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) June 25, 2020

He also openly supported the actions of the State of Israel, actions condemned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on numerous occasions and contemptuous behaviour towards the human rights of the people of Palestine.”

The ANC says it was rather unfortunate for the Chief Justice to state that: “South African government policy was binding upon himself and that he was not seeking to reject it” but then clearly and openly opposing it “as a citizen”.

The party says South Africa is a secular state and all its citizens, including members of the judiciary, are bound by the Constitution.

The ANC says while it has respect for the independence of the judiciary, the party has consistently expressed courageously through its successive resolutions that the contemporary State of Israel is an Apartheid State.

@MYANC statement in support of the #Palestinian #struggle and an open statement to the #ChiefJustice #MogoengMogoeng https://t.co/hzOUvNN8ag

— Aslam Bava (@AslamBava) June 25, 2020

“We support human rights and we stand with the oppressed Palestinians who include Christians of the Holy Land, the residents of Jerusalem and Bethlehem who are living under Israeli Apartheid.”

On June 24, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) stated that the annexation of 30% of the West Bank settlement by Israel is a gross violation of international law.

“The annexation is nothing more than a land grab and theft,” says the ANC.

The governing party says it will continue to work with all sectors of South Africa in opposing the occupation, annexation and colonisation of Palestinian land.

It accuses Chief Justice Mogoeng of turning a human rights matter into a religious argument.

“The ANC in its 53rd National Conference expressed its unequivocal support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination and unapologetic in our resolution that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel,” says the ANC.

Bheki Cele
Cele visits family of slain ANC councillor in KZN
25 June 2020, 8:25 PM

Police Minister Bheki Cele says the new wave of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal is a cause for concern.

Cele visited the family of a slain African National Congress (ANC) councillor in Umlazi on Thursday afternoon.

He said police are investigating eight new murder cases of politicians in the province.

In the video below, KwaZulu-Natal ANC condemns the killing of Bhekithemba Phungula:

On Tuesday, eThekwini councillor Bhekithemba Phungula was gunned down at his home.

He is the third councillor in the municipality to be killed since 2016. While the motive for the murder is unknown, Phungula’s case was handed over to the political killings task team.

Cele says while the spike in killings is worrying, the investigating team has been making progress.

“There’s been progress made by the police, even though there are concerns about the team. There are many hitmen who have been arrested but maybe the police need to work harder to find those who hired the hitmen,” says Cele.

The ANC in the province has raised concerns over the attacks and the slow pace of arrests.

Lancet workers accuse employer of flouting COVID-19 regulations
25 June 2020, 7:55 PM

With the rising number of infections in Gauteng, some workers have accused their employers of flouting COVID-19 health regulations.

It is alleged they’re forcing staff to come to work even after there have been positive cases of COVID-19 in their work area.

Lancet Laboratories is one of the companies that is being accused of violating COVID-19 protocols.

“We are really frustrated and angry because we don’t know what we will end up with, at the end of the day we still have to go to work to provide for our families,” says an anonymous Lancet laboratory worker.

“The problem is that we are an essential service, but we don’t get proper PPEs. We are not screened at work and we are told that we must check our own temperature – how am I going to do that because when I leave home I don’t even have a thermometer with me,” says the worker.

In the video below, report on Lancet’s alleged flouting of COVID-19 protocols:

Two weeks ago one of the staff members allegedly tested positive for COVID-19.

The rest of the staffers claim that the offices were not sanitised and they were not tested yet they were forced to continue to work.

They further alleged that the company has forbidden them from talking about this issue and were instructed to come to work as if it was business as usual.

They say they were not provided with counselling to assist them during this highly stressful time.

The staffer is also angry that they are being forced to pay for the COVID-19 tests from their own pockets.

“Day in and out I am working with COVID-19 samples,  the company says if I suspect I have corona then I must get tested but I must pay for the test myself. This is really unfair because we are also under a lot of stress and depression because we are vulnerable and we don’t know where to run,” says the Lancet worker.

They also claim that an email was sent out by management, at the beginning of the month, telling staff to rather monitor their own temperature daily before coming to work.

They say employees have been threatened with disciplinary action if they fail to disclose any COVID-19 related symptoms to their managers.

With job security threatened, many are afraid to disclose their symptoms and are forced to stay at home not knowing whether they will be paid or not at the end of the month.

SABC reporter Nozintombi Miya tried to get comment from Lancet regarding allegations made by staff members.

The company replied with the message below:

Since the start of level 3 of lockdown, the number of infections in the province has steadily climbed.

Gauteng has recorded more than 26 000 cases, over 6 600 recoveries and 147 deaths.

Currently,  1 927 patients are admitted with COVID-19 in both public and private facilities in the province.

Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku revealed this during a media briefing of the province’s Command Council on Thursday.

The Health MEC has also come out strongly against companies flouting COVID-19 protocols.

The MEC says, “This is essentially a criminal case, it’s criminality because it’s managed by the act in the Labour Act that companies must have occupational health in companies and we are following up as the command centre that we will establish a hotline that gives members of the public a chance to report such companies. We are also working with the Department of Labour to help us enforce some of the measures because the outbreaks come from companies.”

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