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Judgement reserved in school nutrition case
2 July 2020, 8:27 PM

The Basic Education Department has blamed its failure to provide meals to over 9 million learners nationwide on logistics and lack of infrastructure.

Equal Education approached the Pretoria High Court on an urgent basis to seek an order to compel the government to provide meals to learners, regardless of whether they have returned to school or not.

The programme which feeds 9 million learners was suspended in March due to the lockdown. It resumed on 8 June when schools reopened, but Equal Education says 7.5 million children did not receive meals on June 8, and close to 4 million are still deprived of meals despite the programme being fully funded.

Millions of South African children depend on the schools’ nutrition programme for one meal a day. The suspension of the programme as a result of the lockdown has left many children without food.
The government promised to continue feeding these learners during the lockdown, but according to Equal Education, only a handful has received daily meals.

With no guarantee from the department on when the programme will be back in full swing, the organisation is seeking declaratory relief and supervisory orders against the education minister.

Arguing for the organisation, Advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, says the government has stripped the dignity of these poor learners by depriving them of their constitutional right to access nutrition.

“We are not asking for additional rights, we are not asking for additional expansions. But what we are asking from your ladyship is to simply respect the existing access of the right. So the existing access was that nine million children were receiving the meal a day, that cannot be discontinued by the state nor can it be postponed. The rights in Section 72 make it clear that if you are already a recipient of a right that is provided for in the constitution, it may not be discontinued.”

Logistics 

The Education Department has blamed the failure to fulfil its promise on the challenges posed by the lockdown. It argues that the nutrition programme was built around the availability of infrastructure at schools. It says meals have to be delivered and supplied to learners back at school and those who are not at school pose a huge challenge.

“It wasn’t simply a case of okay, 8 June, schools re-open and now it is business as usual. The inherent restraint in the programme was that to roll it out, you use the infrastructure at schools. Now if that infrastructure had to be supplemented, if we had to get extra delivery vehicles, if we had to get drivers, that doesn’t happen overnight, there was an economic implication. Even the private sector that normally supported us had a problem because of the economic crisis that was made available. There was a logistical problem even for the Department of Social Development during the lockdown,” says the department’s legal representative, Advocate Marius Oosthuizen.

Impact on learners 

Meanwhile, in Limpopo, some high school learners at Rotterdam village outside Giyani, say they depended on the meals they receive from the school feeding scheme and it has been tough for them since the lockdown.

“I wish they had never stopped feeding us at school because some of us come from poor families. Sometimes it’s very hard for my family to even afford maize meal… I believe they should continue cooking for us because we depend on the meals from school, at home I can spend the whole day without eating. Please feed us, even if we are not attending classes,” says one of the learners.

Judgment has been reserved.

Coronavirus
Close to 600 schools in Gauteng affected by coronavirus
2 July 2020, 7:14 PM

Close to 600 schools in Gauteng have been affected by the coronavirus. Gauteng Premier David Makhura says at least 184 learners and 428 teachers have tested positive.

Makhura was briefing the media on behalf of the Provincial Coronavirus Command Council on Thursday.

“So in total, the learners plus the teachers we have 687 people who have tested COVID-19 positive. We have closed down 71 schools. But as you know, the school is not closed forever it is closed down when there is a case decontaminated and then reopened.”

Makhura says the month of June has seen a sharp spike in the number of confirmed cases on a daily basis. Gauteng now has the largest number of active cases in the country.

“Hospitalisation has also increased exponentially in the past 14 days. Although the mortality rate is still low, but it is increasing. The COVID-19 storm has arrived.”

Makhura says work is currently under way to increase bed capacity and staffing in the public sector, including field hospital beds at Nasrec and Tshwane Events Centre.

“4 500 additional beds will be ready by the end of July, in preparation for the peak.”

Below is the Gauteng Provincial Command Council update on COVID-19 in Gauteng: 

Number of beds 

Earlier, Gauteng Health MEC, Bandile Masuku dispelled rumours that there are insufficient hospital beds in the province to deal with COVID-19 cases. The rumours were circulating on the messaging platform, WhatsApp, yesterday.

Masuku is briefing the media on behalf of the provincial COVID-19 Command Council. “Yesterday, I did see that particular Whatsapp that was circulating about hospitals being full and there was no truth to it because at that point the hospitals had almost 120 or so ICU beds across the systems. So it’s an important thing that we also have to discourage individuals and people from putting up information that is not truthful into the public platform because it causes unnecessary panic.”

Makhura says the Gauteng it will be engaging with the National Command Council on the need to re-introduce stringent measures.  “(These) include possible intermittent localised lockdowns & slowing down of re-opening of sectors and schools. “

 

It was not ANC’s place to intervene in Prasa matters: Mantashe
2 July 2020, 6:47 PM

African National Congress (ANC) national chairperson Gwede Mantashe says any board chairperson of a State-Owned Entity who approaches the party, seeking intervention on corruption-related issues indicates that they do not know their job.

He was responding to evidence given to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture by Popo Molefe, the former chairperson of the board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Molefe told the Commission that during his tenure at Prasa, he had reported corruption at the organisation to the ANC, and asked for intervention – but to no avail.

Below is Popo Molefe’s testimony at the State Capture Commission:

‘Chairperson didn’t know his role’

He told the Commission that Gwede Mantashe, who was then Secretary-General of the ANC, did not heed his call for intervention in solving corruption challenges at the agency.

But Mantashe says there is no way a political party will get involved in the affairs at a state entity, while there are structures that are set up to deal with corruption.  He says if a board chairperson could do that, it means they did not know how to do their job.

“Any board that expects a political party to come to an entity and intervene on issues of corruption and all of that – it means that chairperson didn’t know his role. The reason why we appoint boards is because there must be no political structure that goes to Prasa and intervenes because there is a board and there’ll be a line ministry.”

On the latest developments in the ANC in Limpopo, Mantashe says all party internal consultative processes had taken place before a decision was communicated to the two senior ANC officials from that province. Danny Msiza and Florence Radzilani, former Vhembe Executive Mayor have been reinstated to the party.

They were suspended after they reportedly benefited from the VBS Mutual Bank scandal which saw billions of rands looted from the bank. Mantashe says the ANC structures deliberated on the matter and came to a conclusion, which is now public knowledge.

“Structures are not structures of water, you see if it was water you pour it down and it moves to one direction. When it is human beings, they think, debate, argue and come to a decision. And one of the disciplines of being in an organisation is to appreciate that when a decision is taken even if you disagreed with it – it is your decision, it is called loyalty to your decision.” In the video below, Gwede Mantashe says a party cannot interfere in SOE matters :  

Coronavirus cases in mines

Meanwhile, speaking to the SABC News, Mantashe, who is also the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, says there is nothing out of the ordinary that the COVID-19 infections in certain mines of the country continue to rise.  He says this is a societal problem that needs to be addressed by conducting more tests and quarantining those who are positive.

“But if you take those numbers and locate them to the overall number of more than 150 000 cases in the country, you are going to begin to appreciate that it is nothing extra-ordinary, but mineworkers must be tested. And the importance of testing is that you are not covering upon the extent of the problem that we have in the country and in the mines.”

However, Mantashe says he would agree to a staggering return to a stricter lockdown if Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, was to initiate it in a further bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

EFF reiterates call for SA to return to Level 5 lockdown
2 July 2020, 3:38 PM

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has called for the country to return to Level 5 lockdown for the next three months. The party contends that the public and private healthcare systems will not be able to cater to the rising numbers of infections.

EFF has warned that failure to do so will result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. South Africa has registered its highest number of infections to date within a 24-hour cycle.

The number of confirmed cases has risen by 8 124 bringing the national total to 159 333. The number of COVID19-related fatalities now stands at 2 749 with the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape being the epicentres of the pandemic.

“In order to sustain the Level-5 lockdown the government must ensure that food parcels are regulated, the government must ensure that there are enough supplies of food, water, sanitation and electricity for all and all financial institutions they must be forced to give people an interest-free payment holiday of three months.  People cannot die because they have loan obligations to pay for their homes. We cannot lose lives because people have to go out there to fend for themselves,” says EFF’s national spokesperson Delisile Ngwenya.

Ramaphosa urges South Africans not to panic 

During a virtual Imbizo on Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged South Africans not to panic and be alarmed by the rising number of coronavirus infections in the country.

The President interacted with communities across the nation through over 80 community radio stations and some SABC platforms.

Ramaphosa says the country will overcome the virus. “Of course, the rise in infections is making us all anxious. We need to know our workplaces are safe; we need to know our schools are safe. But we are not helpless in the face of this virus if we take the necessary precautions, we really do not have to be afraid.”

Below is President Cyril Ramaphosa’s engagement with the public: 

 

SABC facilitation meeting at CCMA postponed to 16 July
2 July 2020, 2:29 PM

The South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) facilitation meeting at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) has been postponed to 16 July. The meeting is part of the public broadcaster’s retrenchment process.

SABC employees will have to wait for another two weeks for the CCMA process to get underway. The meeting, which was partly held virtually, collapsed due to technical problems.

The corporation issued a Section 189 Labour Relations Act notice last month.

Employees are anxious about the process which could see 1 800 people losing their jobs. The retrenchments are expected to affect around 600 permanent workers and 1 200 freelancers.

This as the SABC forges ahead with its plans to reduce its salary bill by R700 million.

The public broadcaster recently appeared in Parliament where it was told that Section 189 notice was premature. However, the SABC management made it clear that retrenchments were part of the conditions attached to the R3 billion government bailout which the institution received.

 

Meanwhile, organised labour at the corporation is threatening to approach the courts if it not satisfied with the process at the CCMA: 

Weather

 

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