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St Barnabas Hospital goes extra miles to save COVID-19 patients
3 July 2020, 9:06 PM

While South Africa battles COVID-19, at the forefront of the war against the invisible enemy, are health workers. Among them, Dr Vusumzi Mehlo, a Clinical Manager at St Barnabas Hospital at Libode, in the Eastern Cape.

He has gone the extra mile to save COVID-19 patients, even driving an ambulance during this pandemic.

St Barnabas is one of the hospitals with low infections amongst its workers. But the battle against COVID-19 is far from over. Mehlo is one of the hundreds of health workers committed to saving lives.

As a manager at St Barnabas Hospital servicing thousands of villagers from Nyandeni, he says the Hospital is responsible for the recoveries of 30 patients who were infected at a funeral in nearby Port St Johns.

“I think we are the first institution in OR Tambo to treat COVID patients whereby we had over 20 patients. We didn’t have any patient dying from COVID-19 from those patients and they are all discharged to their communities, and now we continue having newly diagnosed people.”

Hundreds of COVID-19 patients have been admitted to the hospital with less than five deaths.

When one of the patients had difficulties breathing, Mehlo took it upon himself to drive an ambulance to a nearby hospital for additional help.

“The ambulances were dispatched to other areas then I end up driving an ambulance that day for the first time and my interest was to save the patient’s life so that she has a life after COVID. Someone else would say that was abnormal but to me, since it’s a calling, I’ll do anything to save any person’s life.”

The Health Department is besieged with protests in the area with health workers from 49 clinics remaining on a stay-away.

Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo says it depends on such hospitals to offer services to people coming from far-flung areas.

“There are two hospitals that demonstrated commitment in the fight against COVID-19 with is St Barnabas and Zithulele hospitals in Mqanduli. they started admitting people outside their casement areas. Dr Mehlo admitted 30 people from Majola.”

The Health Department has pleaded with its workers to continue assisting their communities like Dr Mehlo.

Kupelo says the department is in the process of setting regulations that will prohibit the closure of health facilities.

“This is a crisis that needs everyone, so this is encouraging by those men and women. we are aware of the challenges.  We are aware of the anxiety that has been demonstrated, we are dealing with those challenges.”

The infection of staff members remains low at St Barnabas Hospital.

Out of 400 workers just 15 have been infected, with 7 already back at work.

Cigarettes and Alcohol
FITA mulls way forward after failed bid to overturn ban on tobacco product sales
26 June 2020, 9:15 PM

The Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) has expressed disappointment over the High Court in Pretoria’s dismissal of its legal challenge against government’s ban on the sale of tobacco products during the lockdown period.

In its ruling, the court said the ban did not have to be “the best nor the most suitable” approach.

The full bench of judges says the medical material and other reports considered by the Cooperative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma provided her with a firm rational basis to outlaw the sale of tobacco products, which includes cigarettes during lockdown.

FITA Chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni says they are still studying the judgment.

“We are naturally disappointed in the outcome as we were hoping for a positive outcome. And we are quite happy with the arguments put forward by our legal team. We’re studying the judgment as we speak, and we will make an announcement as to whether we will appeal the ruling by the full bench of the High Court.”

In the video below, Tax Justice South Africa’s founder Yusuf Abramjee reacts to the ruling:

Civil rights’ organisation Tax Justice South Africa has described the ruling as surprising.

Earlier, the organisation announced that it had joined British American Tobacco South Africa’s bid to have the ban lifted.

Yusuf Abramjee of Tax Justice South Africa says they are confident FITA has a strong case and that an appeal will overturn the ruling. He once again called upon government to lift the ban.

He says, “Every day the ban continues the crooks are becoming firmly entrenched and enriched. During the three months, or so of the lockdown, decent South Africans have lost more than R3 billion in excise duties alone. That money is desperately needed to fight the crisis crippling our country.”

British American Tobacco SA’s case is scheduled for 5 August in the High Court in Cape Town.

FITA’s Mnguni says in principle, they support any attempt to reverse the banning of the sale of tobacco products.

“Ultimately we support anyone that is bringing any application that deals with the lifting of the cigarette ban, so we supportive of anyone that brings such an application cause we feel the ban of the sale of cigarettes is arbitrary and is unjust and it infringes on many rights and interests in as far as people, both smokers and people that are employed by the tobacco industry along the value chain.”

South Africa is now the only country in the world to prohibit the sale of cigarettes as part of its coronavirus lockdown regulations after Botswana lifted its ban this week.

SABC News has been told that smokers are now paying R100, on average, for a packet of 20 illegal cigarettes, which normally cost between R20 and R30.

Legal cigarettes are allegedly much more expensive.

KZN teenager appears in court as his victim is laid to rest
26 June 2020, 7:01 PM

While a 17-year-old teenager appeared in camera at the Mtunzini Magistrate’s Court in connection with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, the young victim was laid to rest just kilometres away.

Amanda Mthembu’s naked body was found in a cane field in Dokodweni in the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

A small group went to court, where the accused minor appeared in camera.

In the video below, teenage suspect in court for rape and murder:

Community member Mava Ntombela says: “We are here to support Amanda’s family. The community is still outraged and devastated about this incident. We are against his bail application because the community has threatened to take the law into its own hands if he gets bail.”

A few kilometres away, Amanda’s final journey was held.

Her family described her as an intelligent girl, who had a promising future.

“I am still devastated; her body was in a bad state. The family is distraught, and we are lost for words, this is a first in our area. Unfortunately, it started in our family,” says her uncle, Bongumusa Mchunu.

Mthembu went missing on June 14, when she went to visit a relative. After a week-long search, her decomposing body was found in a cane field. The suspect remains in custody and will return to court on July 3.

Police say he has two pending child rape cases.


Women in Kimberley march against GBV scourge
26 June 2020, 5:27 PM

A group of women in Kimberley, in the Northern Cape, have marched to the Galeshewe Police Station in protest of violence against women and children.

They have added their voices to the call to end violence against women and children.

They want police to start prioritising cases that include the abuse, murder and rape of women and children.

 Fear, anxiety and hopelessness, this is what these women say they feel when they hear of yet another case of rape and murder of another woman.

In the video below, calls are for crimes against women and children to be declared a national disaster:

The women say they have had enough of living in fear and are demanding swifter and harsher action against men who perpetrate these crimes.

“I want to say to our uncles and our fathers, what are you doing to our girl child, especially the young girl children? Our children are the future of tomorrow and they are the leaders of tomorrow.”

March organiser Thandiwe Mfulo says the fact that women are marching against gender-based violence is an indication that the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies are failing to protect them.

“We are being treated like we do not add value as women. How many women do I know who became disabled because of violence? How many women have died because of violence? And what is it that you are doing as police, what is that you doing as the Justice Department?”

Just 20 kilometres away from where the women marched, the bail application of 34-year-old Sizwe Ntwane who allegedly raped a 74-year-old woman was postponed in the Ritchie Magistrate’s Court.

Silent protest

In the Western Cape, members of the ANC gathered outside the provincial legislator in Cape Town to hold a silent protest against the GBV scourge.

The protest was also in solidarity of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Only a handful of protesters turned out but this was attributed to the COVID-19 regulations, which only allows up to 50 people to demonstrate.

The Provincial Coordinator of the ANC, Ronalda Nalumangu, reiterated the call of many South Africans that GBV perpetrators be slapped with the harshest possible sentences. Nalumangu also called for the judiciary to deny perpetrators of such crimes bail.

That call is, however, unlikely to hold water as it is contrary to the South African Constitution, which states that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.


Increased infections among Gauteng healthcare workers adding strain: DENOSA
26 June 2020, 4:25 PM

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) says the increased number of healthcare workers that are testing positive for the coronavirus in Gauteng has resulted in a higher workload for the remaining staff at health facilities in the province.

DENOSA on Friday reported that 450 nurses in Gauteng remain infected of whom 350 are members of the union.

On Thursday, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuka announced that more than 900 public sector workers tested positive in the province.

“We need to find a way of slowing it down, we cannot have majority of the nurses as frontline workers getting infected. The workload is definitely increasing. I will give you an example, at PHC maternity ward, you need minimum three midwives, now when one tests positive, you left with two. You must get someone from another shift. I was told at one of the clinics, people were working day duty and knocked off at 9pm because there was no one to relieve them,” says Provincial Secretary of DENOSA in Gauteng, Bongani Mazibuko.

In the Eastern Cape alone, nearly 800 health workers from the public and private sector have tested positive for the coronavirus.

More than 20 of them have died. A loss the Maneli family in Alice, is still grappling with.

The wound is still fresh for Khanyile Maneli, who lost his wife of 36 years to COVID-19.

His wife, 58-year old Matilda, started working at Victoria Hospital in Alice soon after they tied the knot.

She was in charge of the hospital’s stores. Receiving and distributing linen and patient clothing was part of her job.

In this video below, the Health Department asks staff to be vigilant as many are still contracting COVID-19:

Maneli says he is yet to come to terms with his wife’s death.

“She was a very dedicated person. We could see even after work; she would always think about work that she hasn’t completed. You could get that even from her colleagues at work that she was really this type of a person who wants everything to be done properly and professionally.”

Matilda was a mother to two daughters, Nande and Natasha, who say she also reached out to impoverished communities.

“She wasn’t just my mother, she was everybody’s mother. People could come to her for the smallest things. They confided in her and she was that person who was always willing to give even if she was sick.”

The family has paid tribute to other workers who put their lives on the line to fight the pandemic.



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