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Mixed reactions as new rail services open on Monday
17 January 2022, 1:47 PM

Commuters have mixed feelings as new rail services opened on Monday on the Mabopane-Pretoria line. Wide-scale vandalism before and after the level 5 lockdown in 2020 forced the shutdown of the Mabopane Rail Corridor.

Prasa resumed services after the Rail Safety Regulator gave them the thumbs up to run a full train service along this corridor, now new Electric Multiple Unit Trains are being used.

However, the train was an hour late, leaving some commuters frustrated.

Nine months after services were suspended on the Pretoria to Mabopane corridor, the line has been re-opened as SABC News’ Ofentse Setimo reports on what is happening at Mabopane station:

Train stations across the country were left vulnerable when Prasa failed to renew a security contract in 2019. It subsequently resulted in vandalism and theft of infrastructure before and during the 2020 lockdown.

Vendors at the station have appealed to officials to avert a repeat of what transpired.

Train stations upgrade
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says work to restore some train stations in the Western Cape has cost taxpayers about R60 million. He visited some of the train stations on the Northern Line to assess the renovations.
Mbalula says the stations which have been vandalised during the COVID-19 lockdown are expected to be operational again in the first week of March.
Station upgrades in preparation for the resumption of train services: Minister Mbalula

Treasury has allocated 900 million Rand for securing Prasa’s infrastructure nationally. It will include technology and manpower.

Government should establish legislation, regulations to deal with pandemics: Specialist
17 January 2022, 12:44 PM

Government should establish legislation and regulations to deal with pandemics without incorporating them in the Disaster Management Act. This is according to a Social Security and Health Policy specialist from the Wits School of Governance, Professor Alex van den Heveer.

Van den Heveer was reacting to a statement by the World Health Organisation in Africa that governments should probably only resort to lockdowns as a short-term measure while strengthening capacity to contain the variant.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, some political parties have criticised the government for extending the National State of Disaster to the 15th of next month.

Professor Van den Heveer believes the aim of the extension is not to restrict but to tighten loose ends.

“I don’t expect it to continue for much longer. I think we are out of the period of managing this pandemic through the Disaster Management Act. What we will probably also see is that certain parts of the regulations that were used for the health interventions are going to be incorporated into the National Health Act, and therefore you’ve sort of law routinely available instrument. Essentially, we should have enabling legislation and regulations for dealing with pandemics, it doesn’t have to be incorporated into the Disaster Management Act.”

State of Disaster extended for another month

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini -Zuma has extended the National State of Disaster by another month until the 15th of February.

The extension is granted in terms of the Disaster Management Act. The Act empowers the Minister to extend the State of Disaster on a month-to-month basis once the first three months have expired.

The Department says the extension has taken into account the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation. It says it also considered the contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state and all other role players to respond to the impact of the National State of Disaster on lives and livelihoods.

The Department says it’s calling on citizens to continue following all the COVID-19 regulations by wearing a face mask at all times, maintaining social distance, avoiding closed and poorly ventilated spaces and large gatherings as well as the washing of hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

It says it’s also calling on all South Africans to heed the government’s call to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and ultimately protect lives and livelihoods.

The new month-to-month extension officially kicks in on Saturday when the current one expires.

It will now be the 20th time that the State of Disaster is extended on a month-to-month basis.

DA, FF Plus challenging Disaster Management Act in court, say unconstitutional: 

Disaster management team assessing damage after heavy rain in Free State
17 January 2022, 12:31 PM

The Free State disaster management team is assessing the damage that floods have caused in the province.

Two children aged four and eight died in Bronville, following floods that were caused by heavy downpours in the area.

Some roads in the province had to be closed down and traffic diverted. Meanwhile, the Education Department has suspended schooling in Qwaqwa.

Free State head of Disaster Management Markes Butler says continued downpour is hampering their efforts to do a proper assessment.

“The teams are out there in the field doing assessment but you know it is very difficult due to the fact there is ongoing rain. We cannot do a proper assessment of the extent of the damages but we are well aware of the damages that occurred in formal and informal settlements within the Free State province especially in the Qwaqwa area. So we are still assessing, working with the local structure, the district structure, the provincial structures and the national structures to coordinate the efforts in terms of mitigating the current floods situation within our province.”

More rain expected in Bloemfontein 

The local Forte Bridge in the CBD was flooded over the weekend but has since been reopened to traffic. Mangaung Metro spokesperson Qondile Khedama says municipal workers had to open tranches in order to allow the flow of water in some areas.
Khedama says the municipality is trying its utmost best to put its emergency on the ground to deal with any challenges that might arise due to more rains.

Khedama says the municipality will also use its graders to level some of the gravel roads.

“But we also want to, as the city, take this opportunity to apologise to those people who are affected by the flooding at the Forte Bridge and will continuously put the situation under scrutiny just to make sure that at least there’s work that is happening from the disaster management point of view. Teams are there, we are trying to make sure that we are able to disperse the teams we do so immediately.”

Farmers and businesses along the Bloemhof Dam are worried about flooding: 

Zondo Commission’s findings, recommendations to help rebuild SA’s institutions: Ramaphosa
17 January 2022, 11:53 AM

President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa needs to protect the Constitution and the democratic state from anyone who wants to weaken it.

“We need to protect our Constitution, our democratic state and the electoral process from anyone who wants to weaken our democracy and deny the South African people of their hard-won freedom,” he writes.

In his weekly letter to the nation on Monday, the President says all efforts must be made to ensure that citizens are not denied their hard-won freedoms through corruption, sabotage of economic infrastructure and attacks on the integrity of the judiciary.

Ramaphosa also touches on the Zondo Commission report that paints a “deeply disturbing picture of how key institutions of our democracy were compromised and undermined with criminal intent.”

He says the findings and recommendations of the Zondo Commission would help rebuild the country’s institutions that were destroyed by state capture.

“We must ensure that we use them to safeguard these institutions into the future so that they may never be captured again.

“The things that we have read in the Zondo Commission report should strengthen our resolve to defend the institutions of our democracy, all the entities of our state and, indeed, our democratic constitutional order.”

School
Growing calls to end rotational learning at schools
17 January 2022, 10:05 AM

Equal Education together with several civil and legal organisations have added their voices to calls to end rotational learning at schools.

The lobby group joined by the Learning Trust, Legal Resources Centre, NASCEE and other academics have written to the Ministers of Basic Education, Health, and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to request that learners get back to school full-time.

The letter is raising concerns regarding the implementation of rotational learning and how last year saw learners miss a lot of school hours as a result of this.

Equal Education Co-Head of Research, Hopolang Selebalo, says science has changed but the rules have not.

“We are not saying that when there are peeks in the virus or infection or when other waves emerge that learners should go to school but the government must make sure that there’s a plan that accommodates the changes we see and the evolving virus. One more thing is that there’s a risk-adjusted strategy that the department has be touting since about 2020, which is said to be a contact-specific response to the different waves, so we also have to be adaptable, but we are not seeing that from government.”

According to the Department of Basic Education, learners will continue with rotational learning for the month of January. Minister Angie Motshekga last week said her department is in talks with the Health Department to reduce the social distancing parameter.

Scrap rotational timetables

Last week, the Democratic Alliance put out a strong call to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to scrap rotational timetables this year and do away with the 1-meter social distance rule. DA Basic Education shadow minister Baxolile Nodada explains:

Campaign against overcrowding schools

Equal Education has launched a campaign against overcrowding in Gauteng schools.

The campaign titled “#NoSpaceForUs” is based on research that the organisation conducted between September 2019 and June 2020 at nine schools in Etwatwa, Ekurhuleni.

Equal Education’s researcher Katherine Sutherland says it’s evident that overcrowding is a problem as more than 70% of classes at the schools that they had surveyed had more than 40 learners.

“EE’s Gauteng learner members (Equalisers) have long spoken of the significant challenge that overcrowding in schools has on their ability to learn and on the ability of teachers to teach. 74% of classes (557 of 751) that we inspected had over 40 learners.”

“Seven out of the nine schools had at least 15% more learners than the building was designed to hold. 66% of the classroom buildings that we measured were too small for the number of learners that they held. 82% of the classrooms buildings we inspected had too little furniture for the number of learners inside them. 65% of the teachers we interviewed were overworked,” says Sutherland.

Impact of COVID-19 on schools under the spotlight:

 

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