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A ‘pass one, pass all’ policy won’t be applied to 2020 academic year: Education Department
4 August 2020, 9:44 PM

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says only 70% of the curriculum will be covered this year and it may be a tall order. The reality is that hundreds of thousands of pupils in Grade 1 to 5, and 8, 9, and 10 have not been in class since the end of March.

For many, academic activities came to an abrupt end after President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed the national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa announces closure of schools: 

The department has been at pains to emphasise that a ‘pass one, pass all’ policy won’t be applied to the 2020 academic year.

Grade 10 learner from Tafelkop in Limpopo, Mpho Choma, has been at home for the last four months. The last time Choma was in a classroom was in late March. He says he spends his time doing house chores including herding cattle and fetching water from the river.

Mpho is not the only learner in the Choma household. His two sisters in Grade 2 and 4 have been at home since March.

Parent Rosina Choma says they are not sure if any of the children will pass this year.

While the Choma family is concerned about their children’s academic performance, Basic Education is adamant that learners will be assessed before being promoted.

“We want to clarify that there will not be a ‘pass one, pass all’ approach when it comes to the completion of the academic year under the circumstances brought to us by COVID-19. The department is going to work hard to ensure that learners are assessed on the basis of the work they have done. We expect each and every learner to participate in learning. If you are at home the parent or caregiver will have the responsibility of ensuring that the child is learning and that there is evidence of the work that the child is doing so that we are able to conduct an assessment at the end of the year to issue a report accordingly,” says Department of Basic Education’s Elijah Mhlanga.

The department expects parents to come on board, however, some caregivers like Rose Nkomo say this is an impossible task.

Basic Education wants the academic year to be completed on the 15 December.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) fears pupils will be overburdened. “We cannot allow a situation where the learners are going to be overloaded or even be pressured to recover when it is impossible to recover everything. We have got to look at the adjusted teaching plans by also trimming the curriculum further to take into account the most important concepts that have to be learned,” says Sadtu General-Secretary Mugwena Maluleke.

In May, a trimmed and revised curriculum was endorsed by the council for education ministers.

11-year-old shot during service delivery protest in Laingville still fighting for his life
4 August 2020, 9:31 PM

It started as a peaceful service delivery and housing protest in Laingville, St Helena Bay, last week, but tempers flared after 11- year-old Leo Williams was shot in the head.

The community blames the police for the shooting.

The young victim is still fighting for his life in the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. The situation in Laingville has calmed down but protests spilled over into neighbouring fishing communities.

The people of the usually quiet fishing community of Stompneus Bay who have lived in the area for generations say they have had enough.

Protesters were back on the streets on Tuesday. “We are here to show the government that we are very serious and we want houses. We have been here for generations and we are calling to government, ‘this land over here and over there belongs to the factory and we want answers.’ Whose land is it really? Is it the government’s? We want answers and we want to build our houses,” says community member, Pieter van der Horst.

Laingville residents say they feel that the government has been neglecting them: 

The majority of community members work in fishing factories. They want to keep their close-knit families together and are not too keen on outsiders.

“The whole west coast is starting to burn. It’s a direct result of people coming from elsewhere and what we are saying as a community is that we are sick and tired of this. The west coast is becoming a dumping site for people coming from elsewhere,” says Chief of the Cochoqwa people, Atmore Rodgers.

The road closures left many people stranded. Farmers opened their land for emergency travel.

A desperate plea has been made to the Saldana Bay Municipality leadership to intervene and find an amicable solution.

Correctional Services refutes claims COVID-19 protocols are not adhered to at Mangaung Private Prison
4 August 2020, 8:52 PM

The Department of Justice and Correctional Services has refuted claims that management at the notorious Mangaung Private Prison in Bloemfontein is not adhering to COVID-19 protocols. This follows allegations that prison officials and inmates were kept in the dark about people who tested positive for coronavirus at the prison.

Angry inmates who demanded to be tested for coronavirus allegedly burned one of the cells. It is alleged that one inmate sustained burn wounds. The incidents come after inmates received information that other inmates tested positive for coronavirus.

President of the South African Prisoners’ Unemployed Social Movement Tokelo Afrika says management is sweeping matters under the carpet.

“We are tired of these matters. That is why you see inmates reacting this way; that is why they are now burning the cells and ganging up against the officers because they are tired. Nobody is willing to listen to them. There are so many incidents that happen in the Mangaung Prison.”

It is alleged that for the past six months warders and inmates have been stabbed in a surge of violent attacks at the correctional centre.

A warder was hospitalised after he was attacked by inmates in July.

There have been more than 5 400 COVID-19 infections in prisons countrywide since March:

Authorities called to intervene 

The South African Human Rights Commission says it will escalate this matter. Free State Human Rights Commission Manager, Thabang Kheswa has called on authorities to intervene.

“The South African Human Rights Commission has learnt with concern that there are incidents of violence that are taking place at Mangaung Private Prison and we call on those responsible, departments and state institutions to arrest the situation and really restore order at Mangaung Prison. It will really be worrying if acts of violence are continuing and nothing is done about that.”

Allegations dismissed 

Authorities have dismissed allegations of not adhering to COVID-19 regulations.

Correctional Services Spokesperson, Logan Mainstry, has confirmed that there are four COVID-19 confirmed cases.

“The number of active COVID-19 cases has decreased. The safety of correctional facilities is of paramount importance. On 30 July, three inmates set bedding and items alight in the cell. Circumstances are unknown but investigated. There is no incident of gang wars, but assaults take place.”

The South African Prisoners’ Unemployed Social Movement has reiterated its call for some prisoners to be released.

iNanda residents not surprised as local police station records highest number of rape cases in SA
4 August 2020, 8:01 PM

Community members in iNanda, north of Durban, say they are not surprised that their local police station has again recorded the highest number of rape cases in the country.

Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed the 2019-2020 crime statistics last week.

Umlazi followed in second place for the number of rapes nationwide.

“Our most problematic areas … there is Umlazi and iNanda. So, that’s what the figures are telling us. They’ve got nothing to do with stats under lockdown. Those lockdown stats will come quarterly,” said Cele.

Minister Bheki Cele released the latest crime stats: 

Inanda and Umlazi also came in at three and four respectively for their murder figures for last year’s stats.

Crimes like murder, rape, sexual offences, and trio crimes feature highly in Umlazi and iNanda.  iNanda Community Police Forum Officer Mbongeni Phewa says many police officers are retiring in the area.

“More than 20 policemen have resigned; others took early retirement, but were never replaced up to now. Others have passed on and were never replaced. We are very short-staffed in this police station of iNanda. Those things are fundamental in this crime which is taking place in this area.”

Phewa says the station commander post has not been filled.

“The Department of Police must make sure that they get a person who is a station commander who will be responsible for everything. All these things are contributing to the crime in iNanda.”

Too many taverns

Besides these challenges, Phewa says the area has many taverns. He says he believes that alcohol contributes to the increased crime rate in the area.

This view ties in with comments made last week by Police Minister Bheki Cele, who stated that alcohol is linked to some of the crimes in iNanda.

“One other problem that we have found with iNanda somehow confirmed that most of the people are raped coming from shebeens … murders that go with these rapes. So, which means alcohol does play in these matters.”

Staff shortages

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) says the issue of short-staffed police stations needs urgent attention.

“Our concern, as Popcru, is that (of) the number of police officers that you have at the station versus the community members that they serve. We have been engaging government with the issue of downscaling police officers at the head office, so that they will come and beef up at the station level, but other than doing that they introduced another level, which is a district model and that model is taking members at the stations, which they don’t have and that is why there is an increase in crime. People who are supposed to be on the streets are sitting in their offices,” says the union’s Provincial Secretary, Nthabeleng Molefe.

Fear in communities

Several community members, when approached by the SABC for their views on crime, declined to speak, even anonymously, saying they feared for their safety should drug dealers and other local criminals hear their voices.

They say while they wait for the police leadership to get their local police station in order, they do not expect crime rates to decrease.

State Capture turns focus to Free State Asbestos Project
4 August 2020, 6:01 PM

Investigators of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture say officials of the Free State Human Settlements Department enjoyed the benefits of luxury cars and property accruing from money from a 2014 Asbestos Project.

The commission is focusing on probing the alleged corruption in the deal in which a joint venture by Blackhead-Diamond Hill was awarded a R255 million tender to identify and remove asbestos roofs in the province.

According to a spreadsheet prepared by Diamond Hill owner, the late Igo Mpambani and various persons were paid bribes.

“An amount of R650 000 is paid via a trust to attorneys, which is used to buy a property which it is apparent to investigators is where Mr. Mokesi lives. But the explanation of Mokesi is that, ‘no,  this is a joint business venture.’  He and Mr. Sodi became friends and they decided to invest in a property. But what is significant here is that a person who is involved in the grant of a tender of R 255 million, the accounting officer should not be involved in business with the recipient,” says commission’s evidence leader, Paul Pretorious.

Asbestos expert, Jacobus Roets, has told the commission that joint venture company Blackhead-Diamond Hill released little information to assist in the removal and eradication of asbestos in low-cost houses in the Free State.

Roets says the provincial Human Settlements Department paid the company to audit and assess the prevalence of asbestos in the province. He, however, says it simply produced an audit, just 10% of the required task, and failed to give an assessment of the problem.

“This report that they have submitted will not give you the necessary information to accurately cost for a project like that because you can’t assess the risk you don’t know; what equipment to use; how much asbestos to transport; what are the transport requirements; how long this project is going to take to remove. So, that information is definitely lacking in this report and according to me, the assessment will need to be redone.”

Below is Roets’ testimony: 

 

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