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Candle light and Computer
Eskom implements Stage 2 load shedding
10 July 2020, 1:13 PM

Eskom has implemented Stage 2 load shedding which started at midday. This is due to an increase in plant breakdowns leading to the loss of more than 3000 megawatts of capacity.

The power utility’s spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha says the constrained supply may persist throughout this weekend.

“Eskom regrets to inform the public that it will implement Stage 2 load shedding starting at 12 this afternoon. This will continue until 10 o’clock tonight. This load shedding has been caused by an increase in plant breakdowns exceeding 3 000 MW of capacity. Eskom is working hard to return as many of these generation units to service. While five generation units were taken off the grid last night and this morning, a breakdown at the Matimba power station has today resulted in the need for load shedding.”

Meanwhile, Eskom has urged customers to use electricity sparingly after two generation units tripped at the Medupi and Tutuka power stations on Tuesday.

SAA Flights
Public Enterprises Department not ready to deal with SAA’s pilots packages
10 July 2020, 1:01 PM

The Public Enterprises Department says it is not prepared to deal with additional demands from the South African Airways Pilots’ Association (SAAPA)’s regarding Voluntary Severance Packages. Earlier this week various unions except SAAPA endorsed the severance packages at South African Airways (SAA).

The department says it is concerned that the pilots are seeking benefits which are far more financially rewarding than any other group of employees at the airline.

The department says about 600 SAA pilots make up 13% of SAA staff, and take up 45% of the wage bill. The lowest of SAA’s 170 senior pilots earn R3,6 million a year, without benefits.

Out of the R2,2 billion proposed budget for the retrenchments, pilots will get more than R1 billion.

The SAA’s Pilots Association says it has advised its members wishing to take up the VSP’s to go ahead and apply for it. SAAPA has proposed the retrenchment of 1 548 employees and the retaining of 3000 employees.

The DPE says this proposal is not in the best interest of the airline, as it retains a much larger number of employees than the airline can afford. The DPE has further informed SAAPA their proposals cannot be accepted and will not accede to further unreasonable and greedy demands from the union’s leadership for additional benefits.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) have welcomed the decision by the Labour Appeal Court to dismiss the appeal launched by the SAA Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs). 

The practitioners wanted the court to set aside the Labour Court’s decision, barring them from proceeding with retrenchments at SAA without a Business Rescue Plan.

In May, the court found that the proposed retrenchment at the airline was procedurally unfair. It then instructed SAA and BRPs Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson to withdraw the retrenchment notice. 

The Labour Appeal Court has upheld that decision, which found that Section 136(1) or Chapter 6 of the Companies Act does not empower a business rescue practitioner to lay off employees without a business rescue plan. 

 “How do you consult on retrenchment when there is no plan? How do you know where to cut costs? That is senseless. It must be guided by the plan. The business rescue plan is the central vehicle for deciding this,” says the unions’ legal representative, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC. 

Importance of the judgment 

Numsa and Sacca say the case is important for setting down clear guidelines for the BRPs.

“There are many companies which have filed for business rescue in South Africa, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason. This judgment effectively means that BRPs may not be used by employers to prune the business by cutting jobs, and the fundamental challenges threatening the company’s survival must be addressed in the BR plan.”

They have urged business practitioners to adhere to the law.

“We are pleased that the LAC found in our favour. It was important for us as unions to defend the decision of the Labour Court because BRPs are not a law unto themselves. They cannot be given unfettered power to simply cut jobs as they wish, without adhering to the law which governs their existence. Numsa and Sacca continue to drive an agenda for the working class, by putting the interests of workers and their families’ first. This court victory is another example of our commitment to defending workers and protecting their rights. 

Severance packages 

On Tuesday, six major labour unions and the government reached an agreement with regard to severance packages for SAA employees. Unions say the airline will retain 1 000 employees and a further 1 000 will go on a training and layoff scheme.

Training will take place through SETAS.

In the video below, Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi–Majola says they are pleased that more jobs will be retained:

Test tools
Spotlight on invalid or insufficient COVID-19 test result
10 July 2020, 10:58 AM

Receiving an invalid or insufficient coronavirus (COVID-19) test result does not mean that there was an error on behalf of the laboratory during the testing process.

There are three types of results you can get back following a test – Positive, Negative or Not Detected and Invalid or Insufficient.

Receiving an invalid or insufficient result means that the lab test could not tell for sure if you have COVID-19 or not. If you get this type of result you are advised to get tested again for a clear result.

Clinical virologist at Lancet Laboratories, Professor Eftyxia Vardas says, “Receiving an inconclusive result for a COVID-19 PCR, does not mean that there has been a laboratory error. It doesn’t mean it’s an invalid result, what it does mean is that perhaps the timing of the test was at the wrong time. Either too early or too late to detect the virus properly and it is recommended in all international literature that a re-test should be done.”

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise at a rapid rate, the question then lies as to how many of the test results are coming back invalid or insufficient.

Professor Vardas says such results aren’t a frequent occurrence and they don’t contribute to a backlog in testing in any way.

“The numbers that contribute to inconclusive results are very low. They do not then contribute to the backlog and it’s an insignificant number of tests that we get on a daily basis or a weekly basis or even a monthly basis that are inconclusive.”

Johannesburg resident Thabo Mbhata, who works as a security guard, was asked by his company to go for a COVID-19 test. After five days of waiting, his results came back as insufficient. He then went for a re-test and is now awaiting his results. He says this is having a negative impact on his finances because he can’t report for duty until his test results come back and for every day he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid.

“A few weeks ago they told us that they wanted us to get tested so that we don’t infect others. Since I went, my results came and the funny thing is that I have never heard of such things and it was just like a shock for me because the results came saying insufficient. I didn’t understand at first so they had to tell me that I have to come back again and that’s after another 5 days of which I have to wait after waiting for my results to come. Now I’m even scared for my work as well because no work, no pay for us,” says Mbhata.

Below is South Africa’s COVID-19 statistics 

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EFF in the North West calls for people to boycott schools
10 July 2020, 9:31 AM

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the North West has called on learners, teacher unions and parents to boycott schools. It says the coronavirus (COVID-19) infections continue to increase, hence the call for the boycott.

EFF provincial secretary Papiki Babuile says the government’s decision to re-open schools is not based on any scientific evidence.

“The latest scientific discovery suggesting that the COVID-19 virus ‘might’ be airborne further weakens the position advanced by the Department of Basic of Education. Already, a sizeable cohort of educators in almost all provinces with underlying conditions are not going back to school due to their susceptibility to the COVID-19. In the North West province, the situation is dire as some members of the executive including the Premier have tested positive for COVID-19 and are now either hospitalised or in self-isolation.”

The One-SA Movement, led by Mmusi Maimane, has also called for the boycott of schooling on Friday.

“After consultation with stakeholders, I today announce the @OneSA_Movement call for a National #SchoolStayaway this coming Friday, 10 July. We call on teachers and learners to stay home on Friday in protest of the decision to reopen schools before COVID-19 infections have peaked pic.twitter.com/y5NIkQKf7x

— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) July 7, 2020

In the video below, Mmusi Maimane approaches the High Court over the reopening of schools:

The North West Education Department says over 100 schools have been closed due to coronavirus infections, since schools reopened for some grades.

The department’s spokesperson Elias Malindi says they are working with the Health Department to implement the health protocols.

“We are working very closely with the Department of Health to come and conduct testing and screening for the contacts of that particular person. We will be doing fumigation and decontamination of the school, then after that process we will then inform the parents and the learners on when the lessons are going to resume. We have got so many schools in the province here which has been closed and now they are in operation.”

Scooters
Eastern Cape medical scooters don’t meet criteria for patient transport: Mkhize
10 July 2020, 9:15 AM

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the Eastern Cape did not consult his department on the specifications of the medical scooters that the province has procured.

He was speaking in a written reply to a Parliamentary question by Democratic Alliance MP Siviwe Gwarube who wanted to know if the scooters were suitable for transporting patients and whether the national Health Department was consulted before the procurement.

Mkhize says the scooters, do not meet the criteria for transporting patients. He says the province has been informed that none of the scooters should be used as ambulances.

The province awarded a King Williamstown company the R10-million tender to procure the 100 scooters.

Last month, Mkhize and Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba unveiled six scooters fitted with a bed on one side, an overhead gazebo with a first aid kit and oxygen on board.

In the video below DA member of parliament Siviwe Gwarube says Mkhize is contradicting himself:

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Health Department recently defended its decision to launch mobile clinics and scooters. This after it received a backlash on social media where people questioned the appropriateness of these bikes to transport patients.

The department said they are off-road bikes – not part of its emergency fleet and will not ferry critical or emergency cases to hospitals.

It said that they will be utilised for health education and awareness campaigns in communities during outreach programmes.

This project was already in the pipeline before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The department employed 150 additional staff to operate the bikes as part of its primary health care outreach programme.

In the video below, Minister Mkhize launches the EMS motorbike programme in the Eastern Cape: 

Below is South Africa’s COVID-19 statistics 

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