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Suspects accused of stealing UIF COVID-19 relief fund appear in court
6 July 2020, 8:23 PM

Suspects accused of stealing R5.6 million from UIF COVID-19 Relief Fund have appeared at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Monday, according to a statement from the Hawks.

The five accused were charged with 30 counts of fraud and/or an alternative count of theft, as well as 28 counts of money laundering involving R5 688 377.60 of UIF COVID-19 relief fund, which was allegedly stolen from the Department of Labour.

The accused, namely Tshepang Howard Phohole (25), Taetso Zulu (22), Tsietsi Godfrey Mojela (68), Itumeleng Charlene Maseko (39) and Tebogo Andries Nchimane Maseko (40) along with with a company that has been accused, Dilsfinest Café (PTY) were traced and arrested at various residences in Soshanguve, Atteridgeville and Mamelodi on Saturday morning.

The arrest and appearance in court of the six suspects follow an intensive investigation into the case which was registered at Brooklyn SAPS relating to the Unemployment Insurance COVID 19 relief fund.

The suspects’ bail was set at R5 000 each and their case was postponed to 07 September 2020.

 

Refugees
Uganda offers safe heaven to people fleeing escalating violence in DRC
6 July 2020, 8:14 PM

Uganda has offered a safe haven to thousands of people fleeing escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The group was stranded in a remote, inaccessible area since late May, unable to cross the border due to the COVID-19 lockdown that restricted movement in and out of the country.

Following the report of these displaced persons stranded between the two countries, the Ugandan parliament agreed to temporarily open two border crossing points in the Zombo region on humanitarian grounds.

Thousands of people were stranded between escalating violence in eastern Congo and a closed border in the Zombo district of Uganda since May.

With Kampala stepping up to provide life-saving assistance despite concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic as the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hilary Obaloker Onek explained:

“We are not tired. We do not have much land, our country is small but we still allow them out of sympathy. I wish the international community also becomes sympathetic and helps these people. These are not our problems, these are the world’s problems – international problems,” says Obaloker Onek.

The United Nations Refugee Agency is partnering with Ugandan authorities to provide food and shelter while bolstering screening, testing and other measures to mitigate any spread of the virus.

Philippy Creppy of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees says they are putting accommodation and screening for COVID-19.

“We are putting, of course, accommodation, screening for COVID. As you know it is a very special emergency. It is the first time that people are crossing in the COVID situation. We have to be smart to put all in place, screening for security, screening for COVID and screening for Ebola. As you know there are still cases of Ebola in DRC. The team is doing its best to be ready,” says Creppy.

After initial screening, asylum seekers will be transported by UNHCR to an Institutional Quarantine Centre 13 kilometers from the border.

Following the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days, they will be relocated to existing refugee settlements. Two refugees who fled across the border had this to say:

“I hope Uganda can help me with anything, with clothes, food and medicine. The rebels are still attacking communities in Congo,” says one of the refugees.

The other one adds, “When the war started, we did not know what was happening. One morning I woke up and I saw the houses of the neighbouring communities being burned and the rebels were attacking people with machetes and killing them. I decided to run away because our neighbours were killed. Our crops and animals were all destroyed.”

The UN Security Council was recently briefed about an upswing in violence in certain parts of the DRC Eastern regions, amidst a fragile socio-economic environment complicated further by the COVID-19 virus.

The Secretary General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission MONUSCO Leila Zerrougui condemns any form of hate of speech that ignites violence..

“I condemn in the strongest terms attacks on displaced populations and the use of hate speech which incites further violence. Efforts to “de-solidarise” communities from these militias and preventing external actors from supporting their agendas will be vital to address the escalation of tensions in the area.

“To address these issues, MONUSCO continues to pursue a comprehensive approach, which combines active troop deployments to hotspot areas; community engagement; the development of targeted protection strategies; and the provision of critical, large-scale logistical support to FARDC operations,” says Zerrougui.

The intersection between conflicts and a deadly pandemic further complicating efforts to provide life-saving aid to the most vulnerable.

SIU to investigate transactions from Relief Fund, finalising COVID-19 proclamation
6 July 2020, 7:49 PM

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) says it’s in a process of finalising a National COVID-19 proclamation to investigate all transactions done with regards to the R500 billion Relief Fund.

This comes as the OR Tambo district municipality in the Eastern Cape launched an investigation into leaked invoices for a COVID-19 door-to-door awareness campaign totalling R4.8 million.

The Relief Funds were allocated by Government to ease the impact of the lockdown on the economy and the livelihood of citizens.

The Special Investigating Unit is in the final process of concluding the National COVID 19 proclamation. The proclamation will investigate alleged wrongdoings concerning the 500 billion rand relief fund and other misconduct.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the R500 billion COVID-19 relief fund, he assured the nation that government institutions would be held responsible for the expenditure of the fund.

“We will, therefore, act very strongly against any attempts at corruption and at profiteering from this crisis. I’ve directed that special units of the national prosecuting agency be put together to act immediately and arrest those against who we find evidence of corruption. We will work with the judiciary to expedite cases against implicated persons and make sure that the guilty do go to jail,” says Ramaphosa.

In this video below Ramaphosa announces the relief fund:

Corrupt activities

Three months later, corrupt activities in food parcels, musk manufacturing and the latest, door-to-door awareness campaign are reported.

Special Investigation Unit confirmed that since the lockdown, they have investigated several corruption cases, relating to the Solidarity Fund.

The Unit spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago said they have now decided to consolidate all corruption complaints relating to the fund to make a National COVID-19 proclamation.

“We have then since decided that we are going to do one proclamation what we call the National COVID-19 proclamation that will then look at each and every transaction that was done as it is forwarded to us, but what we have done as I say is to make sure that we finalise this, so the President must sign a national one so that we don’t have to do each and every municipality and government department and SOE individually,” explains Kganyago.

Last week, leaked documents surfaced on social media, showing invoices from a company called Phathilizwi Training Institution to the OR Tambo district municipality for a total amount of R4.8 million.

The company had been contracted to conduct a community outreach campaign, teaching people about COVID-19.

Allegations of corruption erupt at OR Tambo district municipality: 

Audits

However, it is reported that the people appearing on the worker’s forms say they were not visited. The municipal manager, Owen Hlazo says he was suspended for refusing to sign off on the invoices.

“I said post the COVID-19 there will be audits that will be done by the AG, by all these other agencies, I was trying to make her aware and also to involve her because there are circulars that we have that are also telling us so I did not sign that invoice and will not sign it,” explains Hlazo.

The Municipal Council speaker, Xolile Nkompela says they are investigating.

“It’s +/- R168 million that we’re busy dealing with and the matter has already been reported to the police and the Hawks. I’m told that they were in our institution doing their work and we really appreciate their quick response and the council its self is not going to sit and it’s going to accelerate this process of rooting out corruption,” says Nkompela.

‘Proper action be taken’

African National Congress (ANC) National spokesperson Pule Mabe says if the documents doing the rounds on social media have been verified, then proper action should be taken.

“It is not easy to comment or give validity to things you see on social media without necessary hearing from the institutions concerned. It is very important that you yourselves from the media verify the validity of such information with relevant institutions and if those things are valid to establish from them the kind of action that are being undertaken because we need to show the people of South Africa that we are prudent, we are acting with greater responsibility,” says Mabe.

Hospital
Protesting healthcare workers at a Free State hospital disrupt services
6 July 2020, 7:18 PM

Health services at the National Hospital in Bloemfontein have been disrupted. This after workers, including nurses, administrators and general staff, downed tools. They have accused management of violating COVID-19 health protocols.

A nurse at the National Hospital in Bloemfontein claims she was stigmatised after she tested positive for COVID-19. Matladi Twala says she was accused by hospital management of bringing disease into the facility.

On Monday, workers at the hospital downed tools, protesting over a shortage of personal protective equipment and alleged failure by management to adhere to health protocols.

Workers also claim that they have been forced to work despite several confirmed COVID-19 cases at the facility. Twala says the working environment at the National Hospital is not conducive to fighting the coronavirus.

“I was tested positive on the 17th and the managers then came to my house and when they came they asked for the contacts. After I’m surprised (sic) they say today I got COVID-19 from the community. So I want to understand whose community, because here at work I’m working with COVID suspects patients (sic) of which some of the patients become positive. And we don’t have even proper PPE’s. We compromise every time for work in the same situation. I’m so surprised. I’m supervising that ward and I know always when we need things they don’t give us,” says Twala.

Another nurse at the casualty department, Puleng Mathoka, says they are terrified.

“They all come with all the symptoms. We have to nurse them. On the 28th of June, we had plus/minus 5 positive cases. And on the 1st of July, some of the staff members which were on duty on the 28 of June started to have symptoms. They all wanted to get tested, but the CEO’s exact words were that ‘the team cannot test all of them at once.’ We want to sabotage his hospital. So, the challenge is that the hospital does not really care about its employees. And the space we are nursing patients is not ventilated yet,” says Mathoka.

Rebecca Adams has worked at the hospital for three decades, 10 years of which as a mortuary attendant. Adams claims she is at risk of contracting the coronavirus as corpses are mixed at the mortuary.

“(The) challenge at the mortuary is that corpses are mixed. COVID-19 corpses are mixed with those without COVID-19 related illnesses. When I get here, I’m not even aware of which one is COVID-19 positive or not. I’m at risk,” says Adams.

Nehawu Regional Secretary, Constable Selebedi, has appealed to hospital management to put in proper structures in place to ensure health and safety for their members.

“What should happen here now is that the processes that should be followed must ensue. The place must be decontaminated as we are complaining about the place and the area that the person who has tested positive has been around. But, according to what we hear from the workers, that is not the case.”

Free State Health Spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, has refuted the allegations.

“People that test positive, we immediately put them in isolation and those that might have interacted with these people, they are then done what is called ‘risk assessment’ to determine if they are high risk, medium risk or low risk, whilst they are awaiting results. Those who get tested, whilst they are awaiting their results, we put them in isolation because our responsibility is to make sure that there’s no continuation of infections.”

Further engagements with workers unions are expected on Tuesday to resolve some of the outstanding issues.

In the video below, Themba Hospital staff members demand COVID-19 test:

Mpho Nawa
City of Tshwane ‘reluctantly’ accepts City manager’s resignation
6 July 2020, 5:30 PM

The City of Tshwane Head Administrator Mpho Nawa says he has reluctantly accepted the resignation of the acting City Manager Mavela Dlamini from his administration.

Dlamini has resigned as both acting city manager and member of the City of Trshwane Administration, citing ill-health.

Nawa says it was not easy to accept Dlamini’s resignation considering the current state of the City of Tshwane.

Nawa says he also took into account Dlamini’s age and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which dictated that he operated offsite.

He says it is difficult to work off-site for Dlamini, given his responsibilities as City Manager.

Dlamini has been at the helm of the City’s administration since 23 March this year after the departure of embattled Municipal Manager, Moeketsi Mosola last year.

The City of Tshwane says the process of appointing a substitute city manager is at an advanced stage.

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