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ANC, opposition parties at loggerheads in Free State ahead of Mabuza’s visit
29 March 2021, 9:23 PM

A war of words has erupted between opposition parties and the ANC at the Maluti-A-Phofung Municipality in Qwaqwa, in the eastern Free State, ahead of the visit of top government officials.

Deputy President, David Mabuza, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Human Settlement and Water and Sanitation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, are envisaged to conduct an oversight with the aim of assisting the ailing municipality’s bid to improve service delivery.

Water shortages and electricity blackouts have become part of the daily lives of residents of Maluti-a-Phofung. The municipality incorporates Kestel, Harrismith and Qwaqwa. It owes Eskom millions of rand. Poor infrastructure is also a major concern.

Residents are hopeful that the visit by the deputy president and ministers will resolve their challenges.

“Our challenges here in Qwaqwa is that there is always lack of water. There is no electricity. Most of the time in the morning or at night there is no electricity and the water is always it is dirty,” says one resident.

“We are still struggling electricity sometimes and we have shortage of water. They are not telling  us why we have shortage of water,” adds another one.

Opposition parties have accused the municipality of failing to provide basic services to the people.

Civic movement MAP 16 Convener, Paratlane Motloung, says the people of Maluti-A-Phofung are still suffering under the ANC government.

“Not all the R220 million was spent on resolving the issues. We are still sitting with the very same issues despite all the rains; despite the work that we have been told it’s been done. I woke up at home without running water and it’s two weeks now,” Motloung says.

EFF Secretary in the Thabo Mafutsanayane District, Mohau Molwele, says the visit by government officials is nothing, but electioneering by the ANC ahead of local government elections later this year.

“We are approaching local government elections. So, we dim and assume that it is going to be another strategy to try and persuade the people of Maluti-A-Phofung to vote the ANC, but over all and above despite two interventions from this municipality from national and provincial government to try and stabilise the municipality. The situation is worse, the level of corruption is rife. As EFF, we don’t welcome the visit of the deputy president. We dim (it) as a futile exercise, as a political expediency,” says Molwele.

“In Maluti a Phofung nothing has change when it comes to water and electricity. Hospitals, Phuthaditjhaba and Bloemgumbusch … they do get water now and then not regularly while other places haven’t received even a drop in Qwaqwa. So, things have been the same. Since the minister and others came and made promises things are still the same,” says  DA Ward Chairperson in Maluti-A-Phofung Municipality, Mathapelo Mokoena.

Dikwankwetla Party of South Africa leader, Moeketsi Lebesa, says they want answers about the disappearance of millions of rand of the water project.

“We are still going days without water. When there is water, it is dirty. We are being lied to. We are told that it is because of timidity level of the water. So, we are expecting the president to tell us how long should we live without water and electricity and he must tell us what happened to R220 million that was injected into Qwaqwa water crisis.”

The ANC says it’s not concerned about opposition parties’ accusations.

“The visit of the deputy president has nothing to do with process of elections. It is the sole responsibility of the ANC to be on the side of the people. Other political parties, as opposition, they will raise their views, but as the ANC, we are not concerned about the views of the opposition. We are concerned about the living conditions of our people. That is where our concern is,” says ANC Regional Task Team convener in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District, Tumelo Thebe.

The municipality was one of Free State municipalities placed under administration. Last year, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Thembeni Nxangisa, lifted the administration much to the dismay of opposition parties.

Court
Limpopo shack fraud case postponed
29 March 2021, 8:45 PM

The Tzaneen Magistrate’s Court has postponed to June the case against six people arrested for fraud related to a R2.4 million contract for the provision of 40 shacks at the Talana Hostel in Limpopo.

The six, including a businesswoman and five officials from the Housing Development Agency, are out on bail. It is alleged that businesswoman, Constance Mohlala, and her company, which is the seventh accused before court, submitted fraudulent documents when bidding for the tender.

The five other suspects Simphiwe Maphisa, Tsokollo Monareng, Lerato Lekhutso and the acting supply chain manager at the HDA, Jeremiah Makofane Nwere are members of the bid committee that recommended Mohlala’s company for the contract.

Talana Project manager, Raymond Maoto, is also one of those who have been charged for the alleged crime.

The court previously granted Mohlala R20 000 bail, while the HDA officials are each out on R10 000 bail. Each of the suspects face three charges of fraud, three of theft and three of forgery.

Report on the arrest on two of the suspects:

Last year, the shacks sparked a public outcry after pictures of the ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil them went viral on social media.

Premier Stan Mathabatha distanced himself from the project, saying he wasn’t aware about the poor quality of the structures when he went to the event.

He said the shacks were a temporary measure aimed at alleviating overcrowding at the hostel and government was planning on building family units for the hostel dwellers.

COVID-19
Court yet to rule on use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19
29 March 2021, 7:25 PM

Civil Rights Group, AfriForum, medical doctors and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) will be back in the High Court in Pretoria later this week to get clarity on the right of doctors and pharmacists to use Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients.

The case was on the court roll this morning and a proposed draft order was presented to Judge Cassim Sardivalle. He, however, requested the legal teams to discuss the matter further to present a more detailed draft order.

Currently, healthcare workers have to wait for Sahpra’s approval of an article 21 application before they can use it for treatment under the regulator’s Ivermectin Controlled Compassionate Use Programme Guideline.

Sahpra maintains there is still insufficient scientific evidence on the efficacy of the drug for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

AfriForum Head of Research, Barend Uys, says they will present the amended draft order later this week to court.

“The full legal teams of the four different groups that brought applications met with he judge and the legal representatives from Sahpra. And they did not come to a specific conclusion, or judgment, or ruling today. So, the legal teams will now speak to each other and hopefully, we will have some finality on the matter.”

Some health practitioners have been calling for the use of Ivermectin to treat coronavirus:

Safety of patients

Managing Director from the Soweto Clinical Trial centre, Dr Qasim Ebrahim Bhorat, says that healthcare professionals should not do as they please, especially with unregistered drugs.

He says they have a responsibility to prescribe medicines that they can guarantee will not cause harm to patients.

Dr Bhorat says undeclared substances in medication cast doubt on their safety.

“How do you prescribe and give someone something that you cannot vouch for? Each healthcare professional can’t just say but I bought it like this. It’s not registered in the country, you are taking a risk. You have to then say, I’m going to get it analysed, I know what it contains and I’m safely dispensing it. With unregistered medication, you don’t know what you are getting. That’s the bottom line. Even if you are a doctor, the use of Panado is legislated. You, as a doctor, are not allowed to do anything you want with any tablet. That’s ridiculous. So, please just follow the law.”

Study on risks and benefits of Ivermectin

Doctor Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation’s Technical Head for COVID-19, says the WHO is reviewing data on global studies on the risks and benefits of Ivermectin.

“The clinical team is looking at data right now on different studies that have been evaluated on Ivermectin. They are synthesising the data from different studies. Some had small sample sizes and the idea is to pool all those together into a meta-analysis and apply it to assess the certainty, benefit, or risk based on each of those studies. They have a steering committee and are following the results of clinical trials around the world and that is being used to trigger the development of the guidance by the WHO team,” says Kerkhove.

Illegal drugs

Sahpra is stepping up its clampdown on illegal drugs and is working with SARS customs officials and the police to stop it from entering the country. Four people from India have already been arrested for smuggling the drug, Ivermectin, into South Africa.

The drugs, with an estimated street value of more than R6 million, were concealed in luggage.

Sahpra Regulatory Compliance Manager, Daphney Fafudi, says no one should be in possession of the drug without their consent.

“We have been getting reports from the public, social media platforms, customs, police regarding contravention. We sent an inspector and found an undeclared shipment that was nicely packed … inside was Ivermectin. This was at OR Tambo. The three were arrested and are currently out on R50 000 bail. In Durban, also undeclared personal luggage – it was an Indian national as well. This one is out on R5 000 bail,” says Fafudi.

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to UN slams reports of human rights violations in Tigray
29 March 2021, 5:58 PM

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) says his country has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual crimes and anyone found responsible for the despicable acts will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. He was speaking to news agency Reuters after a detailed humanitarian briefing at the UN revealed that more than 500 rape cases had been reported to five clinics in the country’s Tigray region, warning that the actual numbers were likely much higher.

Staff from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) last week reported seeing Ethiopian soldiers shoot dead four male civilians after ordering them off a bus near the regional capital Mekelle.

A statement from 12 senior UN officials called for a stop to reports of indiscriminate and targeted attacks against civilians, including rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence, which continue to surface.

“When it comes to Sexual & Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) – just to give you facts, I think in mid-March reports from 5 medical facilities at Mekelle, Adigrat, Wukro, Shire & Axum recorded around 516 rape cases, given the fact that most health facilities are not functioning and also the stigma associated with rape, it is projected that actual numbers are much higher. Women say they have been raped by armed actors, they also told stories of gang rape, rape in front of family members and men being forced to rape their own family members under the threat of violence,” says UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Ethiopia, Wafaa Said.

Fighting between Ethiopian Government troops supported by Eritrean troops to the north and the regional Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which began in early November, has since killed thousands and forced close to one million people from their homes in the mountainous region – with safety and food cited as the top priorities for those arriving in places like Shire in the North West of Tigray, at rates of over 1 000 per day.

As food insecurity and nutrition in a worsening, socio-economic climate with reduced harvests further complicate the situation on the ground. Most of the internally displaced people (IDPs) left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing, they are generally traumatised and tell stories of the difficult journey they took in search of safety.

Some reported walking for two weeks and some as far as 500km. Of the people who travelled with them, some were reportedly killed particularly youngsters, people were reportedly beaten, women were subject to rape, some were pregnant and delivered on the way losing their babies.

The United States has referred to violence in the region as ethnic cleansing as Washington presses for a full investigation and an exit of Eritrean troops who have since agreed to withdraw.

“The administration has repeatedly engaged the Ethiopian government on the importance of ending the violence, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access and allowing a full independent international investigation into all reports of human rights abuses.

Secretary of State Blinken has spoken to the Ethiopian prime minister twice to emphasise the United States concern about the humanitarian and human rights crisis we’re seeing. During his testimony yesterday, he reiterated the situation is unacceptable and has to change, and that we’re calling on the Ethiopian government to follow through on its commitments that it’s made,” says White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki.

Ethiopia’s envoy to the UN affirmed that all those responsible for crimes committed would be held accountable.

“Prime Minister Abiy issued a couple of days ago a statement that those who really very much care about their people in Tigray should have the courage and bravado, turn over themselves to the law enforcement agencies and help us in rebuilding the mass destructed region of our Tigray.

So we are trying our level best to apprehend those who committed crimes, egregious crimes, but in the meantime we call on them to hand themselves over and have their days in court. This we believe is the right approach so that we’re not giving anyone out there, not only in the Tigray region but in any parts of Ethiopia that whomever committed a crime must be held accountable,” says Ambassador, Taye Atskesalassie Amde.

The UN also confirmed last week that a joint investigation between its Human Rights Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission would be undertaken as part of a much-needed accountability process for the victims.

Panyaza Lesufi
Lesufi condemns ‘humiliation’ of learner in controversial hair-combing video
23 March 2021, 9:06 PM

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, has condemned the actions of an educator who roughly combed a learner’s hair before allowing him to enter the school premises.

The incident happened at Fundulwazi Secondary School in Sedibeng, south of Gauteng.

Lesufi says there are acceptable ways to enforce school policies and rules. He, however, doesn’t approve of humiliating learners because it could lead to suicide.

It’s not the first time that the natural hair subject has sparked debate about how it’s received at South African schools.

Tamia Nkosi is a mother who is raising her children to love and embrace their natural hair texture. Nkosi says she watched with horror the clip of an educator forcefully combing a learner’s hair while others look on as they wait to enter the school premises.

“Those are our boys. They are beautiful and very presentable. Their school uniform looks clean. Their shoes look clean and their hair looks nicely trimmed on the sides and I don’t understand how harshly they are treated. Is there no better way that the situation could have been handled?”

Nkosi says those making the rules in society need to learn about diverse hair types and allow learners to embrace and take pride in wearing their natural crowns.

“This issue has been a hot issue for a while. When it comes to schools, who put together certain rules? Are they put together by us, black people, to say what is acceptable and what is not as black hair in general? That boy’s hair is neat. It is trimmed at the sides. I don’t understand why someone else would put their hands on my child. I feel like a parent would have been contacted about it and had a sit-down. That to me is cruel. It’s actually humiliating. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our hair as black people. As it coils up and takes its natural form, it’s just as the hair is supposed to be. I also have a daughter. There is nothing as painful as (being forced) to comb the hair. It’s painful. They are crying. Who has defined what is acceptable and what is suitable to have as a black hairstyle?”

Lesufi has labeled the actions seen on the video as unacceptable. He says each school has its own policies and code of conduct that are usually prescribed by the school governing body.

He says he’s not opposed to discipline and that he’s asked the school for a report on the public humiliation of the learner.

“It must be seen as either harsh, but I’m saying if you have to disciple a learner, you must be careful how you do it. Our policies are very simple, you have to involve the parent and you have to involve learner and you have to monitor progress. If there is no progress then you have to elevate it to appropriate officials. At no particular stage do we encourage educators to execute a certain disciplinary process. It can be in a form of corporal punishment or other things. Those things are strictly prohibited.”

Lesufi says educators need to tread carefully and that there are consequences for humiliating a learner in public.

“Don’t do it to degrade learners; don’t do it to publicly humiliate them because we have reports where learners are reacting differently. Other learners abscond from school permanently and they end up being criminals or doing wrong things in society. And others take their lives.”

The education department has sent a psycho-social team to the school. This is not the first time that hair issues at schools are in the spotlight.

In 2016, Zulaikha Patel’s public spat with Pretoria Girls High made the then 13-year-old a symbol of the fight against discriminatory hair policies.

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